Last night Whatsonstage.com theatregoers took up over half the seats in the Soho Theatre keen to see the much talked about Cock Tavern transfer of OperUpClose’s radical new re-interpretation of Puccini’s classic La Boheme. Following a five month sell-out run at the 60 seater Cock Tavern in Kilburn and now in the middle of a five week run at the Soho Theatre, this La Boheme has become the longest continuously performed production of Puccini’s opera in history. In addition to being the first opera ever staged at Soho Theatre, the production marks the first transfer for both the Cock, which was only founded in January 2009, and for OperaUpClose, which was inaugurated with this production.
Rather than being set in 1830′s Paris translator and director Robin Norton-Hale’s version sees us in present-day London, in a grimy flat over the bars and shops of Soho. Beginning on Christmas Eve, La Boheme revolves around Mimi and Rodolfo, profoundly in love but unable to find a way to make their relationship work. Mimi has moved to England from Romania and is working as a cleaner. She lives alone in a bedsit, amid a group of middle-class boys indulging in a carefree, Bohemian lifestyle; spending the little money they have on nights out. When Rodolfo falls for Mimi, the group discover the complexity of living for love and art.
With four beautifully sung acts this production is very much alive, especially when the singers move amongst the audience in the second act which takes place not in the auditorium but in the bar itself. And this, Norton-Hale and Spreadbury-Maher told us in the Q&A is just what they wanted – a very personal experience of opera, an experience which allows opera to move from the austere and hallowed halls of the Opera House and Coliseum to your local pub. Indeed in the very relaxed post-show Q&A we learned more about the aims and motivations of OperaUpClose, the company’s plans for the future and some really funny stories of rehearsals in the Cock Tavern that emptied the bar!
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