La BohËme, New York

The Met threw in another intermission, but did not
distribute free Champagne. Perhaps the Zeffirelli production is becoming
arthritic, or did the donkey or the horse (it is Zeffirelli; you get both in
his Act II) throw the sort of tantrum singers never risk nowadays?
Alcindoro’s re-entrance with the shoes (Paul Plishka, as inevitably as
the snow in Act III) has somehow got lost in the mayhem, and you are free to
regret this if you like. I also missed Marcello’s “Crossing of the
Red Sea” painting, which is supposed to be hanging outside the snowy inn
in Act III.

For me, though, what made the whole thing worth seeing was Krassimira
Stoyanova’s first Mimi in New York, especially the moment when, wandering
around the boys’ studio, plainly never having seen such a place (Rodolfo
is on the balcony telling his pals downstairs to get lost), takes up
Marcello’s paintbrush, waving it in the air, unable to imagine what on
earth it is. One is grateful for any spontaneity in this ancient staging.

Stoyanova is perhaps the world’s foremost lyric-spinto today, but the
Met hardly takes her seriously as she is not a glamour girl. Mimi is her only
assignment there this season, though New Yorkers can catch her internationally
admired Desdemona when the Chicago Symphony performs Otello here in
April. Her acting in BohËme’s impossibly cluttered attic is impeccable,
though she has trouble getting around all the furniture (“Why don’t
they burn a few of those picture frames instead of Rodolfo’s
manuscript?” grumbles a friend) and is happier when there is merely snow
to dodge in Act III. Her voice is of exceptional sweetness, kept deceptively
small (it is not a small voice) when portraying the consumptive seamstress. On
the first night of the run, there were a few mildly disconcerting moments of
awkward pitch; I’d rather have heard her later in the run. The live
broadcast from Vienna last fall was ideal, unearthly, recalling the young

Her Rodolfo was Joseph Calleja, a burly, bearded fellow with an easy smile
and a smiling voice—marred for some hearers, perhaps, by an old-fashioned
vibrato that reminded me of Alessandro Bonci. Fabio Capitanucci, who is
actually stout, sang a perfect Marcello with an ingratiatingly suave baritone
one is eager to hear again. Debutantes filled out the Bohemian quartet: G¸nther
Groissbˆck (Colline) and Dimitris Tiliakos (Schaunard) revealed fine,
well-produced, Met-sized voices if not yet much individuality of character.
Ellie Dehn, who was so lovely in the Met’s Satyagraha, sang
Musetta’s music well but acted like a village schoolmarm drafted at the
last minute and against all inclination to play the vamp. She’s no vamp,
and displayed no sexual magnetism at all. We’re not interested in your
petticoats, dear—where’s that ankle?

Roberto Rizzi Brignoli did not seem ideally in sync with his singers; one
recalls more bounce in the scenes of Bohemian shenanigans. This group of
newcomers seemed not quite ready to let themselves go. But the Met orchestra
can play this music to perfection in its sleep, and did not sound asleep at

John Yohalem

image_description=Krassimira Stoyanova
product_title=Giacomo Puccini: La BohËme
product_by=Mimi: Krassimira Stoyanova; Musetta: Ellie Dehn; Rodolfo: Joseph Calleja; Marcello: Fabio Capitanucci; Colline: G¸nther Groissbˆck; Schaunard: Dimitris Tiliakos. Metropolitan Opera. Conducted by Roberto Rizzi Brignoli. Performance of December 1.
product_id=Above: Krassimira Stoyanova