In this updated version of Puccini’s much-loved opera for Nice Opera, director Kristian Frédric has brought the setting of La bohème forward to the 1990s – a time at which the AIDS epidemic, as opposed to consumption, was shattering both lives and dreams.
Titled Les flocons de neige des derniers souffles, and featuring some of the loveliest music in the repertoire, this production stars Cristina Pasaroiu as Mimí and Oreste Cosimo as Rodolfo, with Daniele Callegari leading the Orchestra and Chorus of Nice Opera.
Giacomo Puccini wrote La bohème in 1895 to a libretto by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa, who based the story on Scènes de la vie de bohème, a work by French novelist and poet, Henri Murger. In this novel Murger portrayed a lifestyle which he knew intimately. He himself figured as Rodolfo in the book, and the other characters were all friends of his – students who were fun-loving, and witty, always short of money, and with a healthy disregard for authority – until their lives were touched by tragedy. La bohème, which premiered at the Teatro Regio in Turin on February 1st, 1896, was conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini. It was an immediate success and has since become one of the world’s most frequently performed operas.
The action, set in Bohemian Paris, centres around the love story of Rodolfo and Mimí. He knows that she is dying of AIDS and he tells Marcello that because he cannot afford to provide for her adequately, they must part. On hearing this, Mimí is devastated, and they decide to stay together until spring, but she dies before the warmer weather arrives.
The role of Mimí is sung by Romanian soprano Cristina Pasaroiu whose most recents projects include performances as Mimí at Deutsche Oper Berlin, in Puccini’s Il Trittico (Il Tabarro, Gianni Schicchi and Sour Angelica) and in Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the Staatstheater Wiesbaden, Violetta Valèry in Verdi’s La traviata at Aalto Theater Essen, and in the title role of Dvořák’s Rusalka at Grand Opera Avignon and at Opera de Bordeaux. Also a concert artist, Ms Pasaroiu’s appearances include a tour across Europe and the Middle East with Andrea Bocelli, and she has also performed at centres such as the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, at the Vienna Musikverein, Teatro Regio Parma, Alte Oper Frankfurt and the Konzerthaus Berlin.
Last seen in Nice as Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Italian tenor Oreste Cosimo includes in highlights of his career appearances in the title role in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Alfredo in La traviata in Tel Aviv, Edgardo at Deutsche Oper am Rhein Duesseldorf, and as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Filarmonico di Verona. He has also performed in Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Petite Messe Solennelle, Verdi’s Requiem, Dvořák’s Stabat Mater and Mozart’s Requiem. Mr Cosimo has future engagements scheduled as Rodolfo at the Festival Pucciano in Viareggio and for Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv, as Edgardo in Osnabrück and Tel Aviv, and Cassio in Verdi’s Otello and Il Duca di Mantova in Verdi’s Rigoletto, both for Israeli Opera.
Romanian baritone Serban Vasile takes the role of Marcello. Among the many awards and prizes he has won is the BBC Cardiff Singer of the Year in 2011, and in the current season he has appeared in Bach’s St John Passion in Bucharest, as Il Conte di Luna in Verdi’s Il trovatore with Opera Bergen, as Sharpless in Puccini’s Madam Butterfly with Opera Nationala Romana Timisoara and Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen at the Festival Mediterranean in Malta.
Schaunard is sung by Italian baritone Jaime Pialli, and Italian bass Andrea Comelli is Colline. Mr Comelli has most recently appeared as Il dottor Grenville in La traviata at Teatro Massimo di Palermo and in Tokyo, and as Timur in Puccini’s Turandot at Fondazione Petruzzelli in Bari.
Musetta – a former lover of Marcello – is sung by French/Armenian soprano Melody Louledjian. She has more than thirty roles in her repertoire, including those of Violetta in La traviata, the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor and Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale. Equally comfortable with both the classical and contemporary repertoire, she also performs regularly in recital and concert, a notable example being the Chorégies d’Orange.
Also in the cast are Richard Rittelmann as Benoît, Eric Ferri as Alcindoro and Gilles San Juan as Parpignol.
Decor and costumes for this production are by Philippe Miesch, and lighting is by Yannick Anché.
Daniele Callegari leads the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra, Chorus and Children’s Choir in four performances of Kristian Frédric’s production of Les flocons de neige des derniers souffles – La bohème – at Nice Opera from May 31st to June 6th. Tickets may be reserved online or by telephone on 04 92 17 40 79.
Lead image courtesy Opéra Nice Côte d’Azur