Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Around the world's opera houses, the legend is that "La Boheme" is indestructible. It's not true, of course, but there are times when it survives in the face of what seem hardships if not disasters.
Wednesday night, for instance, while the New York City Opera was presenting its well-designed production, there was a minor contretemps during the tenor's famous "Che gelida manina." And in the second act, Musetta, after a dazzling entrance, was stopped midstage by a bonnet that refused to detach itself from her wig.
More importantly, the tenor and soprano deliberately overrode Puccini's directions for the last phrase of Act One which took the tenor, Enrico Di Giuseppe, straight into disaster as he tried for the high note he had no business attempting, and the soprano belted out what Puccini marked "pianissimo, dying away!" Ah well, so much for Puccini.
There was a lot that went very well. Noelle Rogers makes a brilliant Musetta, and the stage business between her and her ancient, wealthy lover, Alcindoro, was some of the best seen in a long time. It brought out so much laughter, however, that the music was often drowned out, which is not quite what Puccini had in mind at that point either. Rogers sings Musetta with far more velvet in the voice than many. It is a welcome sound.
The four Bohemians could be called good workaday unsubtle craftsmen. Richard Fredericks' Marcello, Thomas Jamerson's Schaunard and Will Roy's Colline did what was expected of them and nothing more.
The Mimi, new this season, was Mariana Niculescu. Her voice has a hard edge and she rarely colors notes or phrases in a way that suggests the tragic pathos of the role. James Billings made a clever Alcindoro, though there are touches he neglects that would make his portrait outstanding.
John Mauceri conducted an orchestra that produced much beauty of sound. He did not always seem wholly at ease with the score or the singers. Perhaps there has been a limited time for rehearsal. It was not a "Boheme" to remember.