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BWW Review: LA BOHÈME at Staatsoper Unter Den Linden -- 2 promising young voices buried in a listless, uninspired production

BWW Review: LA BOHÈME at Staatsoper Unter Den Linden --
2 promising young voices buried in a listless, uninspired production In the classical music world, the hype surrounding French lyric tenor, Benjamin Bernheim is becoming hard to ignore. He recently released his debut album with Deutsche Grammophon and has an impressive array of performances lined up in 2020 in some of the best opera houses in the world. Based on last night's performance in the Staatsoper Unten den Linden's listless, tired production of LA BOHÈME, there is reason to believe that Mr. Bernheim will live up to his hype. He has a healthy, young tenor voice and an excellent singing technique. When he is nervous or unsure, his sound can become somewhat nasal, but when he is relaxed, the voice opens to ringing high notes. As Mimi, Eleonora Buratto has a lovely soprano that blooms above the staff. Musically, she and Mr. Bernheim were a good match.

Neither Mr. Bernheim nor Ms. Buratto has much stage technique yet. There is no chemistry between them whatsoever. They neither fill-in the outlines of their characters, nor fully inhabit their music. When they are not singing, they disappear. They are, at least at last night's performance, from the "park and bark" school of singing. They sing... e basta. Fortunately, they sing quite well. However, as a woman dying of consumption, Ms. Buratto would have been well-advised to at least cough now and then. As to the rest of last night's ensemble, they gave workman-like performances and were immediately forgettable.

Last night's BOHÈME was the 77th performance of director Lindy Hume's production from 2001. It was clearly showing its age. The set and lighting by Dan Potra and Franz Peter David were both perfectly fine, and could easily withstand another 100 performances. The staging, however, should be immediately retired. Act Two was joyless, lifeless and laughable in the extreme. Even a community theater could have come up with better staging than last night's performance. It is unworthy of the Staatsoper.

BWW Review: LA BOHÈME at Staatsoper Unter Den Linden --
2 promising young voices buried in a listless, uninspired production
Act Two of LA BOHÈME

Setting Act Three in a train station was a logic that escaped both the singers and the audience. Almost every scene in Ms. Hume's production is haunted by an older actor (perhaps Rodolfo as an old man, recalling his youth?) whose presence is never explained. Mostly he seems like an actor who wanders into the wrong show and decides to hang out for a while. A few times, he seemed like a subway pervert waiting to open his trench coat and flash the audience. Whatever he is meant to be, this invention was nothing more than another useless distraction.

One of the many joys of visiting the Staatsoper is their orchestra. One hears the many years of principal conductor Daniel Barenboim's influence in every note the orchestra plays. Last night, Puccini's timeless melodies were rendered with brilliant ensemble playing, perfect intonation, and exquisite attention to detail. Unfortunately, Mr. Barenboim was not conducting the performance, and the fate of the singers was left to the young British conductor, Alexander Soddy. In Mr. Soddy's hands, the tender, intimate love story between two doomed young Parisians, Rodolfo, a poet, and Mimi, a seamstress, was mostly buried under an avalanche of sound from the pit. Mr. Bernheim, and Ms. Buratto have powerful, ringing voices that should have easily ridden over the orchestra. Determined to "win" the volume race at all costs, Mr. Soddy overwhelmed every moment possible and single-handedly nearly destroyed this entire performance.

All Photos: Monika Rittershaus, Courtesy of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden Press Office

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From This Author Mark Janicello