Search - Giacomo Puccini, Riccardo Chailly, Roberto Alagna :: Puccini - La Bohème / Alagna · Gheorghiu · Scano · Keenlyside · D'Arcangelo · Di Candia · Chailly

Puccini - La Bohème / Alagna · Gheorghiu · Scano · Keenlyside · D'Arcangelo · Di Candia · Chailly
Giacomo Puccini, Riccardo Chailly, Roberto Alagna
Puccini - La Bohème / Alagna · Gheorghiu · Scano · Keenlyside · D'Arcangelo · Di Candia · Chailly
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #2

Get ready to hear Puccini's star-crossed bohemians as you've never heard them before. To be sure, not only is La Bohème probably the most widely performed opera, but it's one of the most frequently recorded, from the ...  more »


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Get ready to hear Puccini's star-crossed bohemians as you've never heard them before. To be sure, not only is La Bohème probably the most widely performed opera, but it's one of the most frequently recorded, from the superb account under Thomas Beecham to Karajan's famous Decca version (still a best seller after nearly 30 years). And it's precisely because of the opera's popularity that clichés and overromanticized distortions have settled around performance practice. Riccardo Chailly's goal in making yet another Bohème was to clear these away, using a new critical edition of the score and respecting Puccini's own stated views on how the music should sound, how the drama should unfold. The result is a profoundly moving work of restoration that deserves to join the ranks of its formidable predecessors. To begin with, this Bohème features a young cast--all in their 30s--of some of today's most characterful singers who together convey the necessary vital sense of ensemble. Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna (the couple first met performing the opera at Covent Garden) bring overwhelming chemistry to Mimì and Rodolfo. For once, we hear the arias of their famous encounter in Act I not as set pieces but as part of a larger momentum in which both are swept up. Alagna, with a thrillingly full sound to his top range, portrays a many-faceted Rodolfo, from dreamy poet and ardent lover to the man broken by loss, while Gheorghiu's radiantly sympathetic Mimì is a study in the use of subtle vocal coloring to dramatic effect. Elisabetta Scano sings an unusually light-voiced Musetta, as transparent as a boy soprano--a fascinating contrast to Simon Keenlyside's robust and charismatic Marcello. Chailly's urgent, unsentimental approach to the score is, quite simply, a revelation, and the story moves forward briskly. His insight into tempo relation between the "big" numbers and transitional sections highlights Puccini's effect of comic high spirits mingling with intense pathos. Whether it's the aching solo cello in "Mi chiamano Mimì" or the impeccable diminuendo of the final tragic bars, Chailly's well-known mastery of detail foregrounds a lucid variety of colors and dynamics from La Scala's orchestra--its first recording of the opera in more than 30 years--that are often neglected in the music. The result is categorically a Bohème for our time. --Thomas May

CD Reviews

Quite simply, the best "Boheme" least on records!
madamemusico | Cincinnati, Ohio USA | 02/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It's always interesting, to me, to read others' reviews of "La Boheme." As the most popular opera in history, any new or different recording is always guaranteed to get a rise out of people, and time and again any newer version gets automatically compared to one of the four "golden" sets of the past. Top of everyone's list, it seems, is the de los Angeles-Bjorling-Beecham set, followed by the Freni-Pavarotti-Karajan, Albanese-Peerce-Toscanini, and (for those of us who can abide old-time sound) the Albanese-Gigli-Berretoni recording.Every single one of these recordings has merits, yet every one also has serious flaws. The Gigli set is the liveliest and most charming performance on record, but it is musically inaccurate throughout--largely due to Gigli, for whom "Boheme" was more of a personal comedy act than an opera whose music should be respected. Yet Tatiana Menotti is by far the best Musetta on records, having a full and lively (if somewhat overbrilliant) voice. The Toscanini set has the best conducting of any Boheme, and Albanese in much better form, but it suffers from a Rodolfo (Peerce) with absolutely no charm or romance in him, and a pallid Musetta (Ann McKnight) who makes some serious musical mistakes that should have been corrected. The Beecham set suffers from the really terrible singing of Lucine Amara as Musetta and a "hothouse" Mimi and Rodolfo who, for all their vocal luster, never convince you that they are passionate young lovers. And the Karajan set has too-slow tempos, a really nasty-sounding kids' chorus, and the blandest Musetta ever in Elisabeth Harwood.What's funny is that each of these "classic" Bohemes were considered duds in their day. The Gigli set was always punished for its musical inaccuracies. When the Beecham set came out, the reviewer for High Fidelity compared it unfavorably to the Gigli set and an early Tebaldi recording. I can still remember reviewers complaining that the orchestra and chorus were somehow playing the wrong notes at the end of Act 2 in the Karajan set, and how he drowned out his singers with bombastic fortes. The stereo "Bohemes" that were praised by critics in their day were the Thomas Schippers set with Freni and Nicolai Gedda, and the James Levine version with Scotto and Domingo. Both were heavily touted and, for a while, sold well, but both have sunk without a trace in favor of Berretoni, Toscanini, Beecham and Karajan.I honestly feel that this "Boheme" is going to join the ranks of these "immortal" performances as time goes on. For one thing, it is the liveliest "Boheme" in the interplay of the characters since the Gigli set. For another, Gheorghiu and Alagna sing with a tonal beauty and passionate commitment not heard since Freni and Pavarotti. And, thirdly, Chailly's conducting seems to combine BOTH the headlong forward rush of Toscanini with the tender accents of Beecham--a potent combination, in my view. The one detriment to the set is, again, the Musetta, but since they hired Elizabeth Scano and not Hei-Kyung Hong, they got what they paid for. (It's possible that Scano and Chailly are an "item": I notice that she turns up with regularity on his recent recordings, for no reason that seems connected with her limited abilities.) Scano has a thin, small voice with a touch of nasality; she is no Tatiana Menotti; but she is still far better than McKnight, Amara or Harwood.Ultimately, your decision will be based on what YOU hear and expect from a "Boheme" recording, and everyone's taste and experience is different; but if you like the liveliness of the Gigli set, the briskness of Toscanini and the sentiment of Beecham, and if you are being open and fair-minded, you will find that this performance combines the virtues of all of these while sidestepping many of their detriments."
A Boheme That Indeed has its Fine Points
Aurora Vronsky | USA | 10/26/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I have owned this recording for about a year now, after much anticipation to experience Angela Gheorghiu's Mimi in its entirety. Also, this is afterall the opera which began the great partnership of the duo d'amor. They were even even wed backstage during an intermission of a performance. So when I listen to their performance, I know their passion is genuine. There is much debate as to which is the ultimate La Boheme. Many music lovers tend to turn to the Karajan and Beechman versions(which are indeed memorable) and measure all by these standards. However, on this latest recording, the last part of Act One, Act Three, and the death scene in Act Four really set a new standard in the art of interpretation. Never have I heard such passion! Gheorghiu and Alagna magically bring the famous star-crossed bohemian lovers to life! Alagna sings a wonderfully ardent and appropriately agitated Rodolfo,(one of his finest, if not his finest role), and Gheorghiu's Mimi is vividly vulnerable, sentimental, and tormented. I have heard what many people consider the standard- setting recordings, and these two hold their own--if not surpass them. Afterall, as great as the singers of these roles were, none of them had the advantage of real-life passion for one's operatic romantic partner to feed their interpretation. For the most part, the rest of the cast comes through as well with vivid and youthful portraits of the delightful bohemian gang. You feel like you are really with these lovable characters, living as Murger put it "A gay life, but a terrible one!". The weakness for me on this recording is the Act Two, when Musetta is put in the limelight. Elisabetta Scano puts forth a vivid interpretation, but her voice (though remarkably clear) is thin and shrill to the extreme. At this point, I put on the EMI version to listen to the stunning Ruth Ann Swenson, whose golden voice carries the scene (as Musetta is supposed to do) and puts all other recorded Act Twos to shame. Therefore I would strongly recommend owning both versions, to compliment each other. Now, if they could just get all the greatest singers and interpreters on one recording of La Boheme, that would be a miracle."
Actually, it's very good.
Gerardo Cabrera Munoz | México | 12/15/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Yes, of course there are better La Bohemes in the catalogue, but this one is good and worth hearing. Best of all is Alagna's Rodolfo, I like him a lot, he is honest, italianate and has a fine sense of line. Whatever people say, I found him preferable here to the EMI version. I can't say I am a fan of Gheorghiu, sure her voice is pretty, and at present it is in good condition, but she lacks the ultimate in imagination and passion. Her Mimi is closer to Tebaldi's than to Callas, De los Angeles or Freni. If you just want the best stereo La Boheme, go for Karajan with Pavarotti/Freni and Panerai, if you can stand good mono sound it is between De los Angeles/Beecham and Di Stefano/Callas and Votto. This last recording is often overlooked, but Callas and Di Stefano give the finest third act on any recording, and Mimi's death is unbearably moving."