Puccini's La bohème, one of the world's most famous verismo operas, in a traditional production by Jonathan Miller, full of realism, inspired by the photographs of Brassaï and Cartier-Bresson from the 1930s. Marc Piollet conducts the Liceu Orchestra in a Bohème that stands out for the excellence of its cast: in the role of Mimì, Eleonora Buratto, and in that of Musetta, Olga Kluchynska, winner of the 2015 edition of the Tenor Viñas Competition. The group of bohemians is led by tenor Saimir Pirgu as Rodolfo, and Marcello by baritone Gabriel Bermúdez.
The love story between Rodolfo, the poet, and the sweet Mimì, a neighbouring embroiderer, sets the pace of the work, which is set in Paris in 1830, a hundred years before Miller's wager. In the Latin Quartier, a group of bohemians, including the protagonist, with his companions Marcello, Schaunard and Colline, live in a garret in the cold and hunger, unable to pay the rent. The counterpoint to the protagonist couple, who are torn between jealousy and fear of the girl's illness, are the couple Marcello, a painter, and Musetta, a femme fatale who ends up helping Mimì in difficult times. The opera features great musical moments, such as the famous Act I aria "Che gelida manina", in which Rodolfo warms the hand of a helpless Mimì who has come to the artists' house to ask for matches. After the poet introduces himself in "Chi son? Sono un poeta", it is the girl's turn to sing "Mi chiamano Mimì", a page full of tenderness that reflects the idealism that surrounds the plot.
Opera in four acts
Music by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, based on the novel Scènes de la vie de bohème (1851) by Henri Murger
Symphonic Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu
Chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu
Cor Vivaldi – Petits Cantors de Catalunya
Conductor | Marc Piollet
Stage director | Jonathan Miller
Set designer | Isabella Bywater
Costumes designer | Isabella Bywater
Lighting designer | Jean Kalman
Choreographer | Jonathan Miller
Chorus master | Conxita Garcia, Òscar Boada
Rodolfo | Saimir Pirgu
Schaunard | Isaac Galán
Benoît | Fernando Latorre
Mimì | Eleonora Buratto
Marcello | Gabriel Bermúdez
Colline | Fernando Radó
Alcindoro | Fernando Latorre
Musetta | Olga Kulchynska
Parpignol | Josep Lluís Moreno
Giacomo Puccini’s last opera needs no introduction. After a 20 year absence, Turandot returns to the Teatro Real in a new production by one of the greatest stage directors of the 20th and 21st centuries: Robert Wilson, the creator of unforgettable images in The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic and Pelléas et Mélisande.
In a cast led by Nina Stemme, Gregory Kunde and Yolanda Auyanet, the Associate Musical Director of the Teatro Real, Nicola Luisotti, conducts one of the greatest operas of Italian repertory.
The starting point for La bohème and its entire creative process up until the first performance of the opera in Turin’s Teatro Regio on 1 February 1896 is documented in minute detail in the abundant correspondence between Giacomo Puccini, his publisher and mentor Giulio Ricordi, and the librettists Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. The latter began their stormy, yet fruitful, collaboration with this opera and went on to write the librettos for Tosca and Madama Butterfly.
Starting with the book Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger (1882-1861), originally a series of autobiographical stories published in a magazine, the two librettists, closely supervised by Puccini, built an ensemble plot in which four young bohemian artists confront financial difficulties and bad weather with humour and good cheer, finding their way in an effervescent, bustling, wintry Paris.
A love affair between one of them, aspiring poet Rodolfo, and the seamstress Mimi is cut short by her death. We watch the story move from the pleasures and dreams of youth to the solidity of real life, with all its problems.
With his sublime orchestral palette, his mastery of poetic rhythm and his enormous talent for drama, Puccini builds the personalities of the young people with his usual skill, contrasting sparkling anecdotes and fun with deep and heartfelt passions. Their short, conversational phrases are interlaced with others of much greater melodic and dramatic power. The orchestration is expressive and effective, suggesting tiny details such as flickering flames or jingling coins, while setting scenes in an almost cinematic fashion, from the chilly garret to the busy streets of Paris at Christmas time, or the loneliness and deprivation of poverty.
Past moments are evoked like flashes of memory by a masterly use of musical motifs associated with emotions or even objects to which Puccini gives great symbolic significance: Mimi’s candle, the pink bonnet Rodolfo buys for her, Colline’s overcoat, or the muff which warms the heroine’s hands on her deathbed…These moments which come and go in our memory, concealed and then revealed in the everyday affairs which make up our lives, are the narrative thread running through this new production of La bohème, which was broadcast live.
The prestigious British stage director Richard Jones and the set and costume designer Stewart Laing present the opera as a series of scenes from bohemian life, without hiding the backstage work that usually goes on behind the scenes. The audience can see how the sets are changed, how different devices are used to create theatrical effects, and how props are piled up in the wings, like scraps of life crammed into our memory.
From their vantage point, the audience watches the past and present of the characters at the same time, unable to immerse themselves in the cold, bright Paris of the young bohemians because they will always see it depicted on stage. But this ‘play within a play’ device, which blurs real time and theatre time, the auditorium and the stage, drama and metaphor, will bring the audience to a richer interpretation of Puccini’s work, enhanced by viewing it from different angles, with all its images.
Madama Butterfly, one of the most staged operas in the whole world.
The tragic story of the geisha Cio Cio San, better known as Madama Butterfly, touches all audiences. Puccini’s innate talent narrates the terrible conflict between two irreconcilable civilizations. This time the story is told from a different angle. Stage director Mario Gas sets the story in a 1930s cinema set. He narrates the poignant drama from three simultaneous perspectives for an even more marvelous experience of this classic by Giacomo Puccini.
The fact that the Berliner Philharmoniker turned to Puccini – this beloved yet ostracized composer – is symbolic. Here is someone who was thought to be outmoded for a long time, but there is really so much more to be discovered about him and his work. The tale of one who becomes a model but remains a girl, is very contemporary.
Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi premiered at the Metropolitan Opera New York in 1918. The third piece of his Il trittico is a comic opera after an episode in Dante’s Divine Commedy –the playful-amusing depiction of a shrewd glutton – that soon became a great success with the public. Its musical language is surely the boldest and most modern of the Trittico. This masterpiece of Italian Opera Buffa will be staged by none less than Woody Allen, whose mordacity and twisted sense of humor will make it truly special.
Although one of his most consistently lyrical operas, La Rondine (The Swallow) remains one of Puccini’s least known. Dissatisfied with the results of his work, Puccini wrote three versions, with two different endings, and continued to make further revisions up to his death in 1924.
The innovative 2007 production at Torre del Lago Giacomo Puccini Festival, presented in this programme, is in effect a fourth version, which combines Act I and II of the first version (1917), with Lorenzo Ferrero’s 1994 orchestration of parts of the finale of Act III oft he incomplete third version (1921), some of which had survived only in piano score, as well as Ruggero’s Act I romanza "Parigi è la città dei desideri", from the second version (1920).
With the collaboration of Naxos
Puccini’s Japanese tragedy Madama Butterfly is given a ravishing production by The Royal Opera. Alluring images of Japan as seen in the 19th-century European imagination reflect the work’s intense depiction of the clash of East and West.
When the American naval officer Pinkerton seduces the young ‘Butterfly’ Cio-Cio-San, he seems to promise every happiness – but his cruel abandonment leads to her tragic self-sacrifice. Antonio Pappano, Music Director of The Royal Opera and renowned for his interpretations of Puccini, conducts an exceptionally fine cast with the Royal Opera Chorus and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Powerful performances show why Madama Butterfly remains one of the all-time operatic favourites.
With the collaboration of Naxos
Tosca, Giacomo Puccini's fifth opera, was first staged at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14th January 1900. The opera initially stirred contrasting reactions among the public and critics. Whilst the latter generally expressed strong reservations, the public appreciated the opera greatly and decreed a success that has never waned since that date. The libretto was entrusted to Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, back in partnership after Manon Lescaut and Bohème.
From its first appearance in 1887, Tosca had proved to be one of the most popular dramas of Victorien Sardou (1831-1908), who had written it to suit Sarah Bernhardt. Sardou's theatre was essentially based on plot, enriched however by precise realistic and psychological touches. For Puccini, the encounter with Sardou's theatre basically meant an incursion into the sphere of the "verismo" melodrama, from which the composer had always kept his distance. His human and musical sensitivity was, indeed, far removed from the coarseness of verismo, and, substantially, Tosca thus represented an exception.
Yet it was an exception in which all the most typical situations of verismo stood out in, we might say, concentrated form: events follow one another in a crescendo of tension and drama. Puccini was too refined a musician to insist too heavily on the more truculent aspects of the plot, and his music frequently tones down the crudity of the situations.
With the collaboration of Naxos
Inva Mula and Aquiles Machado lead the cast of this cinematic production by Giancarlo del Monaco, in a realistic recreation of Bohemian life in 19th century Paris, where we see the tragic love story of Mimì and the poet Rodolfo.
A magnificent production by Nuria Espert, in which Daniela Dessí plays Puccini’s heroine, with Fabio Armiliato as Cavaradossi and Ruggero Raimondi as the villainous Scarpia.
A newspaper once asked, in reference to Rinaldo, why anti-heroes were so fascinating to audiences. We might ask the same about Scarpia, who thrills opera fans the world over when he sings “Più forte! Più forte!” while he tortures Cavaradossi. Or when we hear Tosca sing beside his corpse, “E avanti a lui tremava tutta Roma!”, we feel she could have loved this villain had she not met her painter. But Tosca lives for art and love, so she tells Cavaradossi to give his painting of Mary Magdalene black eyes. She also wants the Virgin as witness when she kisses her lover. It’s hard to imagine a more assured tearjerker than in these scenes by Sardou, accompanied by the sweeping score of the great Giacomo Puccini.