There was much to like about this old war-horse. Updated to the 1930s, the set was half an octagon and the sides spun around for different scenes, allowing for smooth transitions.
The opera was very colourful with a great variety of disparate characters inhabiting the chorus. There was a lot of activity in the second act, with an upper level in the café.
But the opera lives or dies by the leading players, and they did not disappoint. Maija Kovalevska showed why she had sung Mimi at the Met, with a beautifully sung, heart-rending performance. I particularly enjoyed her pianissimo singing in the last act, where she appeared to lack the energy as her life slipped away.
Yosep Kang was a thrilling Rodolfo and ardent lover. There was genuine chemistry between the two, and they were most convincing.
Richard Anderson used his powerful bass to good effect as Colline, particularly in the Coat Aria. Christopher Hillier was a boisterous Schaunard, and had his moment to shine in the shenanigans of the last act. Jane Ede sang well as Musetta, but Christopher Tonkin a rather uninvolved and underpowered Marcello.
In the second act Adrian Tamburini impressed with his powerful bass and strong acting. He was a strong middle-aged Alcindoro, rather than an old doddering fool, as he battled to control his Musetta.
Mimi gave a different take on her first meeting with Rodolfo by blowing her own candle out, making her the hunter, rather than the hunted. As often happens, she hid in plain sight in act 3.
This will be a very popular opera in Opera Australia’s Melbourne season.
Image: Jane Ede as Musetta and ensemble in Opera Australia’s 2018 production of La Bohème at the Arts Centre Melbourne. Photographer: Jeff Busby