Puccini's "La Boheme" has never ranked high on the credibility scale, but the heavily clad Bohemians had their hands full Saturday night convincing the Wolf Trap audience that they were truly freezing in their onstage garrets. Succeed they did, however, in a lively New York City Opera production that featured an able cast gifted both musically and dramatically.
They were helped enormously by the fluid and loving treatment given the score by conductor Imre Pallo. Never allowing the pace to falter, Pallo at the same time managed to provide sensitive and flexible support for the singers.This secure base made possible the entire ensemble's confidence and relaxed style.
Riccardo Calleo and Patricia Craig in the roles of Rodolfo and Mimi made a handsome pair, bringing n appealing tenderness and warmth to their various duets. Both posses solid voices of an exceptionally pleasing timbre which they used with taste and intelligence. Craig's sound in particular became freer and fuller with each act.
Elizabeth Hynes and Dominic Cossa offered spirited characterizations as the quarreling lovers, Musetta and Marcello. Hynes cut an appropriately bold figure, making her first entrance in a splendid three-wheeled wicker conveyance. She sang the famous waltz aria in which Musetta enumerates her own charms with considerable flair, despite a rather wobbly vibrato on the upper notes. Though his voice is not large Cossa used it wisely to create a stylish Marcello. He and Calleo along with the Robert Hale and Thomas Jamerson in the roles of fellow Bohemians had a fine sense of comic timing. Their clowning in the final act was inspired, providing a brilliant contrast with the sudden shift of mood that occurs when the dying Mimi enters.
Aided by effective staging from director Cynthia Auerbach and attractive sets and costumes from Lloyd Evans, the opera moved easily along in an evening that was consistently enjoyable, if not especially moving. Overcoming the plots absurdities to truly touch the listener requires a breadth of concept and nobility of projection which no one in this ensemble possessed. But then, few singers in the world do.