Leggi la Recensione La Bohème / The Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre
In the admittedly apparent sobriety with which the Tuscan maestro managed to present it, the dualism between the price that must always be paid to the harsh reality – symbolized by Lucia’s death, also known as Mimì – and the longing for a life free from rules (a life of eternal youth devoted to the pursuit of a pure and infinite feeling, to which material poverty and spiritual richness would correspond, as remembered in the scenes where the four artists make fun of each other and joke about everything, and the lunch in the Latin Quarter on Christmas Eve) could not have been any more radical.
Indeed, La bohème staged a piercing glorification of the unconventional and proto-avant-garde spirit inherent in the 19th Century Romanticism and, in this, Puccini’s hunch was dazzling, for he managed to temper its absolute lyricism with the pessimistic vision of a kind of realism that, in the prior decades, had already witnessed the publishing of the first masterpieces of the Ciclo dei Vinti by Giovanni Verga.
We do not know whether the four friends were geniuses, victims of society’s incomprehension and/or subject to that common sense which modifies fantasy and reality because, in La bohème, what is loud and clear is that the pursuit of freedom and happiness is an harbinger of the inevitability of a tragic faith. Mimì was like a sacrificial lamb; her death, symbol of the sinking of all poetry. Mimì’s death was meant to be excruciating because, as Puccini warned, an entire world perished with her, a youth that, as it is shown as well through the protagonist herself, thought of glorifying itself. Not only Good is not stronger than Evil, but we are also said that Love is a road that, pretending to open paradise’s doors for us, actually drags us down to hell.
The final efforts of medical care or the selling of material goods to afford a doctor are useless. Everything is in vain, senseless, the limits of the illness are insurmountable borders against which Puccini, with damned humour, decided to let a love born and consumed during winter perish.
We get to observe, in Vilnius, an interesting adaptation of La bohème, the most famous work by Puccini, one among the most beloved composers in Italy, to whom Cristina Mazzavillani Muti dedicated a whole trilogy – of which we already got to admire the convincing divertissement, Mimì è una civetta – born from the desire to allow young artists, specifically selected from the two co-productions (The Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre and the Ravenna Festival), to be protagonist of a high-quality and tailor-made project.
It is Christmas Eve. We are in a freezing attic in Paris. Inside, four young and carefree friends hang out, looking cheerful and exuberant. «Pioggia o polvere, freddo o solleone, nulla arresta questi arditi avventurieri» (H. Murger, Vie de bohème). Adventurers so cold and so poor that they cannot afford to pay the rent or the check at the café. So, they decide to relentlessly dedicate their whole existence to art and love («un caminetto che sciupa troppo… e in fretta!», as Marcello says), and spend their life in a lively manner with friends in the crowded streets of the Latin Quarter of Paris.
If for the poet Rodolfo, the painter Marcello, the musician Schaunard and the philosopher Colline the only thing that counts are feelings (devoted to art and love), it will not be long until the audience discovers how to the joyful presentation of the surroundings and the characters of the first act, concluded by the lovely duet between Rodolfo and Mimì, will follow a deeply dramatic development of what, just in appearance, could have been perceived as a reckless display of a carefree youth. The tragedy, in fact, is hidden inside of candid Mimì’s body, uselessly surrounded by her friends’ affection and her beloved partner. And the finale, depicted with the big window symbolizing the attic closing as she dies, will be lacerating.
From the observance of the atmosphere and the original context to the introduction of a significant element of innovation (that can be found in the digital construction of the scenography), the setup of this Bohème convinces, first of all, because of the choice of the director from Emilia-Romagna to proceed with balance between tradition and innovation. Through the projection on vertical movable panels, inspired by the symbolic work of Odilon Redon, Muti, in fact, outlines, rather than the realism of the Parisian setting (still recognizable), the heart-wrenching emotional correspondence with the intimacy of every single character, thus attaining the effect of an evocative mise en abyme and an intelligent cross-reference to depths and impressions of internal landscapes that are able to return undamaged Puccini’s heritage, avoiding the risk of banality thanks to a coherent essentialisation of the drama of the opera by the Tuscan maestro.
Besides the scenographic innovation, the costumes, the direction and the acting, everything – net of a given conventionalism of proxemics and – results functional to Puccini’s musical intentions, even though the vocal lightness was subject, especially in the first part, to the musical exuberance of an orchestra still properly directed by Julius Geniušas to support and valorise a singing that could have been more appreciated if it had been more vigorous.
Vikorija Miškūnaité plays a Mimì that is soft to the hear and pale to the eye, occasionally immature but, as a matter of fact, convincing in the decision of playing the challenging part with a clear voice and a pleasant and crescendo timbre, which goes from the delicate (maybe too delicate) Mi chiamano Mimì until the introspective Donde lieta uscì è sincero. Moreover, Aisté Pilibavičiūte is an admirable Musetta for the accuracy of her dramatic tone and for her vocal interpretation, confident after an initial tension. Respectable some male roles too, such as Otar Jorjikia (playing the role of a Rodolfo whose lyricism, alongside his acting personality, increased little by little) and Dainius Stumbras, a Marcello that during the opera has been able to find vocal wholeness and warmth.
Muti mantains all the grace of the tragedy, she does not indulge in useless complications and she entrusts herself to the emotional power of the opera, returning it through an essential mechanism – limited in mannerisms and free from any ostentatious ornament – but still heart-breaking in its representation of those human conditions in which the aforementioned tearing dualism is shown.
A Bohème, then, that is interesting in its direction, precise in its musical performance and poetic in its appearance, and whose vocal uncertainties appear to be shades of grey in a staging that has not bloomed completely, but that nevertheless returns coherently and clearly the leitmotif which moves and touches with passion its mortal characters, between life and death.
thank Cecilia Bianchini and Francesco Chiaro for cooperation in drafting this review.
The show was played at
The Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre
A. Vienuolio 1, 01104 Vilnius
6 January, 2018
an opera in 2 parts
composed by Giacomo Puccini
Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger
Music Director and Conductor Robertas Šervenikas
Conductor Julius Geniušas
Direction and Concept by Cristina Mazzavillani Muti
Stage Director Gediminas Šeduikis
Lighting Designer Vincent Longuemare
Costume Designer Alessandro Lai
Visual Designer David Loom
Video Programmer Davide Broccoli
Chorus Master Česlovas Radžiūnas
Conductor Julius Geniušas
Cast Viktorija Miškūnaitė, Aistė Pilibavičiūtė, Otar Jorjikia, Dainius Stumbras, Šarūnas Šapalas, Egidijus Dauskurdis, Arūnas Malikėnas, Mindaugas Jankauskas
Co-production between the LNOBT and Ravenna Festival