I need something to write about in these barren six weeks while waiting for Opera Australia to come back to Sydney, so here it is. A series of posts in anticipation the 2008 season, show by show —thoughts, hopes, predictions and so on. So, without further ado —
Right. When it comes to Bohème, I have absolutely no right to feel jaded. True, it's boringly popular but nevertheless, I've only ever seen it once. But maybe the jadedness of seasoned fanatics has infected me, or maybe I'm just not very nice — the prospect of La bohème does not, in and of itself, excite me hugely. I'm not a great fan of Opera Australia's production (my one and only Bohème was in Sydney in September 2005) but even the world's most exciting and wonderful production probably wouldn't stir my blood too much.
However. All that said, I am looking forward to this and will probably see it twice at least. Most of the principal cast changes halfway through and each cast has in it one singer I love. In the first cast, Aldo di Toro sings Rodolfo. It's still relatively rare (though a bit more frequent than it used to be) for me to go nuts for a tenor but I am mad about Aldo. He is the sort of singer who will take "Che gelida manina", which somehow never quite penetrates my evidently cold, cold heart, and make it do what it's meant to. And when he says "Come vivo? Vivo!" I might actually take him seriously and not think (as I tend to) stop avoiding the question, Rodolfo.
And from February 9th, Antoinette Halloran sings Mimi. And I have a growing suspicion that this will be a Special Event. This won't, I'm sure, be a mousy, sweet-as-pie Mimi. Antoinette's far more interesting and alluring than that. Besides which, I'm starting to think she really has one of the most interesting female voices in the company. I can't believe she doesn't feature more heavily next year. I will probably say this several times in the coming year.
So naturally I'm a bit upset that Aldo and Antoinette don't coincide, even for a night. At least in Traviata, which had a similar cast change, there was a one night overlap, where Best Violetta (Elvira Fatykhova) sang with Best Alfredo (Aldo di Toro) — the night I chose to go, and I was not disappointed. However, such is life. Aldo's Mimi is Hye Seoung Kwon, evidently one of the company's golden children as she turns up everywhere. She will, I'm sure be a lovely Mimi, though perhaps more on the above-mentioned sweet-as-pie side, without Antoinette's scintillating sex appeal. And Antoinette's Rodolfo is, as far as I'm concerned, an unknown quantity — Warren Mok. However, his website claims he's Asia's leading tenor and his resumé lists plenty of impressive companies, so I guess he can be trusted.
Amelia Farrugia and Taryn Fiebig share the leather pants role of Musetta. I tend to think of Amelia as slightly better suited but, then again, I've never heard Taryn for more than a few minutes at a time, so it's hard to know. Both have relatively pretty, sparkly tops and reasonable agility, which helps for Musetta. My concern with Amelia is her lower register; with Taryn, it's her Italian, which sounded frankly odd in her Trittico appearances. A couple of my favourite boys show up among Rodolfo's Merrie Band — José Carbo is half of Marcello and Jud Arthur is half of Colline, as he was the last time I saw it. There's another casting wish: I'd love to see Jud Arthur in a medium-to-large sized role for once. Bartolo was good, but I think he could go even bigger than that. I speak partly from patriotism (he's from my hometown) but mostly from the fact that every time I hear him, I want to hear more, and he's never in a role which allows it. Meanwhile, if he's going to keep singing Colline (which he does supremely well) I wish they'd let him wear a slightly less silly costume.
Two conductors as well. Giovanni Reggioli conducted the four performances of Falstaff I saw in February 2006, which were mostly pretty great. And I'm a fan of Tom Woods after my Streetcar marathon, not least because at the insights afternoon beforehand, he appeared to share a little of my ambivalence about the quality of the music. Which is a little more interesting in the man conducting its Australian première than in a rambling blogger.
Speaking of which, I think at this point I'll bring this particular ramble to a close. But to anyone reading (yes, both of you) — any thoughts to add about this Bohème? Anyone who heard Warren Mok's Calaf and can promise great things from his Rodolfo? Fans of the production? All comments welcome, as always.