20,000 picnickers can’t be wrong. Here are some reasons why you should watch yesterday’s open-air Bohème from the Marschpark in Hannover. It’s available for long-term catch-up on the NDR website.
- In this semi-staged performance all the props were literal, except perhaps Mimì’s pink bonnet, which was reduced to a girly headband. Costumes seemed to be improvised from the singers’ own wardrobes, making the characters endearingly individual. Where else would you see a Mimì dressed in floaty boho vintage alongside a Musetta in sequinned slinkiness? Cast and audience alike seemed to be having a great time and their enthusiasm spilled over onto the small screen. I was more than happy to accept some stock operatic gestures from the lesser thespians in exchange for performances wrenched straight from the heart.
- Conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson kept everyone beautifully on course and the NDR Radio Philharmonic played with concentration and sass. The girls of the Mädchenchor Hannover sounded tween-angelic as the children. It was a treat to see them in action in the aisle, within arm’s length of the audience, as at the best sold-out church hall shows. Ditto the band and supers.
- Michael Fabiano and Carmen Giannattasio are not your usual sunny-voiced Mimì and Rodolfo. Both have spinto-ish, dark-tinted voices and, as such, were vocally well-matched. Mr Fabiano regaled us with his gale-force top notes and Ms Giannattasio with her lovely Italianate phrasing. As Mimì grew weaker, both their performances intensified. Mr Fabiano cried REAL TEARS during the death scene. What does it matter that she still had her healthy lass make-up on? Watch and weep.
- The second couple were equally gratifying. Angel Joy Blue’s naughty-eyed Musetta moved in a cloud of glamour, vocally and in every other way. Not only were her frocks supersparkly, but sparks flew between her and Mariusz Kwiecień’s Marcello. And if you wonder how she’d sound as the seamstress, you can hear her as Mimì and more in NDR’s recent opera gala with Joseph Calleja.
- One more reason to watch: Yngve Soeberg lending his buttery baritone to Shaunard. A gorgeous voice.
NDR Klassik Open Air: Thank you, and until next year!