Puccini: La bohème. Irish National Opera. © 2022 Signum Records

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Irish Coffee

GIUSEPPE PENNISI listens to Puccini's 'La bohème' from Irish National Opera

'The excellent Italian diction of all the singers, both the protagonists and those in secondary roles, is remarkable.'


La bohème is a very popular opera which I have reviewed several times in this magazine. The last time was on 9 April 2022. I refer to that review for the details of the opera score. I have never reviewed a La bohème CD set and have never visited Irish National Opera in Dublin; this CD is based on a production of that opera house. In preparing this review, I learned that Irish National Opera has rich seasons and also produces very difficult operas such as Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss and Rossini's Guillaume Tell. Last year, the company's production of Vivaldi's Bajazet was nominated for Best New Opera Production; it won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera. Thus, it is far from a provincial theatre but an opera house worth following. If I were younger than eighty years old, I would make a trip to Dublin to see and listen to some Irish National Opera productions.

This CD set is evidence of the company's high quality. It is not a live CD, but based on live performances, and it was recorded at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin. La bohème, as discussed in the 9 April 2022 review, is a very difficult opera, both vocally and orchestrally. On this recording, the overall rendering is quite good, even though it should not be expected that all the ingredients are top notch.

Act II (the Christmas Eve Café Momus Act) is the best part. The full company is on stage and there are, in addition, the chorus, the children's chorus and several extras. Although short, it is difficult to handle for the many singers involved as well as because it is the Act about the happiness of youth. It is like a good cup of Irish Coffee with the right proportions of black coffee, Irish whiskey and whipped cream - really re-invigorating.

The other Acts are quite good too. In Act I, the duet between Rodolfo and Mimì is a little gem.

Listen — Puccini: Si. Mi chiamano Mimì (La bohème Act I)
(SIGCD702 CD1 track 9, 0:00-0:52) ℗ 2022 Irish National Opera :

In Act III, I was quite impressed by the final quartet.

In Act IV, I found the duet quite remarkable, also because there was no attempt (as happens in other renderings of La bohème) to give almost a not required and, in my view, inappropriate Wagnerian touch to the leitmotif recalling the Act I love scene.

The excellent Italian diction of all the singers, both the protagonists and those in secondary roles, is remarkable. It is a truly international cast. Lithuanian tenor Merūnas Vitulskis (Rodolfo) is a generous performer with a centre register and very good acute and legato, as we can hear from his entry aria. His Mimì is Irish soprano Celine Byrne: her fragility and sweetness stand out in her Act III aria.

The other couple (Marcello and Musetta) are Serbian baritone David Bizic and Irish soprano Anna Devin. I would single out their contribution to the Act III quartet as well as Musetta's waltz in Act II.

Listen — Puccini: Quando m'en vo (La bohème Act II)
(SIGCD702 CD1 track 16, 0:00-0:45) ℗ 2022 Irish National Opera :

Listen — Puccini: Dunque e proprio finita! (La bohème Act III)
(SIGCD702 CD2 track 8, 0:00-0:51) ℗ 2022 Irish National Opera :

Of the many others worth noticing is Irish bass John Molloy as Colline.

The conductor is the Spanish Sergio Alapont. I have listened to him often in Italy - Verona, Ferrara, Florence and Catania - also because he studied at Pescara conservatory with Donato Renzetti. He is a very good professional, growing fast, and he always catches all the intricacies of La bohème's score.

Copyright © 15 October 2022 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy








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