Gianandrea Noseda - LA BOHÈME is a refined and delicate opera
Well, everybody knows by heart LA BOHÈME, there will be still something to discover? This vision underlines a typical and insidious mistake hidden behind the great repertoire and especially in the folds of Puccini’s operas. The perception that LA BOHÈME could be understood as a simplistic opera makes the skin of the Italian music director crawl. In my opinion it’s very difficult; few other titles of Italian operas reveal this complexity. The problem is that many directors and singers think to know it very well and what is the result? It is one of the most performed opera but conveyed in a bad way: sometimes the concept of popularity lies with superficiality.
What do we have to be careful of when we perform it?
LA BOHÈME is conceived as a refined and delicate opera. You have to be careful about it in order not to lose any precious detail. But without being affected, otherwise you will distort the meaning of an enthralling narrative. Puccini for his part complicates the matter by putting articulated dynamics in the score.
The story seems to be melancholic and tender…
It is but there is also a peculiarity: here, strong contrasts are voluntarily softened and ridiculed while tiffs, somehow typical of the adolescence, become vital. This is a theatrical mechanism, very beguiling and extremely sensitive.
So refined as to fool the audience and part of critics at the world première?
The audience of 1896 had reasons that from our perspective seem not to exist. At that time seeing young people on stage sharing a herring and then go out to enjoy life was even too much realistic. That’s why the first reaction was of non-acceptance and of complete refusal of the opera.
What do you particularly appreciate in this opera?
Its conciseness, its progressive flow. I am not referring to musical beats but to emotions, theatrical dynamics that give rhythm to the narrative.
LA BOHÈME comes back to Teatro Regio, the place where its world première took place, with a celebratory intent and a new ‘non-traditional’ production...
When we think about Alex Ollé and Fura dels Baus you can imagine whatever eccentric staging but this choice wouldn’t be coherent with the text. The performance aims to tell a story, that’s all, and to illustrate the life in a big metropolis like Paris, where bohemians still live in a melting pot of different cultures.
Is this opera about youth?
Well, youth, students’ spirit but also the exposure to cold, hunger: the plot develops around these aspects, finding its expression through orchestral colors and singing style.
What about the music...
This opera is plenty of thematic-cross references but not in a Wagnerian sense: in this case we are talking about repetitive and connecting fragments, according to a principle, which introduces compositions of the 20th century.
What about the singing style? The music critic Eduard Hanslick denigrated what he characterized as a kind of ‘declamato lirico’…
Word, as usually happens in the theatre, is independent from melody, it doesn’t take its shape but maintains its identity. Many years before, Verdi already theorieed the importance of "parola scenica": Puccini was a talented disciple of that.
While Mimi is dying, the carefree youth is fading with her. Widening our reflection, can we say that LA BOHÈME represent the end of a period?
For sure, we are talking about an opera that I will define as ‘modernist’ in the sense that it looks forward and not backwards. The idea can be extended to the declining 19th century, but pushing factors towards the short 20th Century are more obvious. Even with more conviction in IL TABARRO, the composer looked at the past, as if he needed a reassuring point of reference in the loss of the Great War. LA BOHÈME has a disruptive energy that its popularity sometimes leads us to underestimate.