Opera: La Bohème

The first attempt to see La Bohème at the Cock Tavern last month was thwarted by snow (and the subsequent obligatory transport disruptions), so it was a relief to catch it at the Soho Theatre on Tuesday night to see what the fuss was all about.

This production of Boheme updates the story to the present day and is in English. The story is now in London Soho where poor struggling bloggers writers are trying to make ends meet. Mimi is an eastern European migrant worker who makes a bare living cleaning people's homes. When you read stories about homeless Poles eating rats, none of the problems the characters face in the opera seem far from the harsh realities for some of living in London today.

1000000548While the singing is good (but not great), what sets this show a cut above anything else is the passion and emotion the cast convey. There is an awful lot of energy and enthusiasm here...

At the end of the second act everyone is asked to make their way to the bar, and the show commences with such a bang that even knowing what comes next (either in this production or the opera) feels like such a surprise. It was particularly amusing to see people walking down Dean Street do a double take at watching Musetta fight with her much older lover through the glass windows. Even for the usual jaded passers by in Soho, it certainly was a novelty...

Returning back to the theatre for the final two acts, the mood shifts a gear and there are some great performances as the characters slowly realise that Mimi might actually be dying. The audience was on the edge of its seat and I suspect more than a few were holding back the occasional tear.

It is not the full opera and there isn't room in the Soho Theatre for a full orchestra, but this production grabs you and takes you on a trip with the Soho Bohos that is hard to resist. It plays until 20 February.

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