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Canberra Today 3°/8° | Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Review / Ambitious undertaking for young singers

STAGING an opera is a phenomenally ambitious undertaking, especially for a group of amateur performers.

Charles Hudson as Rodolfo and Louise Keast as Mimi in La Bohème
Charles Hudson as Rodolfo and Louise Keast as Mimi in La Bohème
Almost unavoidably, “La Bohème” falls short, but also shows the potential Canberra Opera has to build interest in opera and develop new performers.

Dramatically, “La Bohème” was a good choice for the group to tackle. Following the romances of struggling bohemian artists, the opera lends itself well to minimalist staging and has down-to-earth characters with problems that are easy to relate to. Puccini’s conversational, rollicking musical style also works well in a stripped back production.

Unfortunately, in opera more than other genres the music is in the notes, and most performers were off-key. The notable exception was Louise Keast, whose vocal performance as Mimi was excellent although her acting was wooden. Charles Hudson as Rodolfo was comfortable in lower registers, but struggled to hit higher notes. The cast made a heroic effort, but opera is uniquely demanding – many singers who struggled here would excel almost effortlessly in most musicals.

The performers were accompanied by a piano, and while this was decently done the lack of an orchestra stripped the music of a lot of its richness and humour. More needed to be made of acting and staging, and these were both quite basic.

Keren Dalzell as Musetta was on the right track: her voice was nowhere near as powerful as Keast’s, but her vivid and slightly over-the-top turn as a jewel-draped floozy had so much character and energy that it compensated for her slightly weaker voice and made for a more satisfying overall performance.

If more of the show had been done with the same character and confidence, this would have been a much more satisfying production.

I saw a lot of ambition and potential in this production. Canberra Opera provides an important service to the community, especially by giving people who love opera an opportunity to show that love by creating and performing it.


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Ian Meikle, editor

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