Met’s second-cast “Bohème” continues the strong vocalism, laughs and tears

Mon Jan 10, 2022 at 1:45 pm
By Arlo McKinnon
Maria Agresta and Charles Castronovo in Puccini’s La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera. Photo Ken Howard/Met Opera

Amid winter’s chill, the Metropolitan Opera presented a heartwarming performance of Puccini’s evergreen La Bohème Sunday afternoon. The excellent lineup of singers in this second Bohème cast of the season brought the drama to life, with a close and empathic sense of ensemble. 

Maria Agresta was an ideal Mimi. The Italian soprano possesses a lovely, lyric voice, and is a compelling actress. She was delightfully enticing in Act I’s duet with Rodolfo, and fully captured the audience’s sympathy in the final two acts.

Charles Castronovo, the solo holdover among the four principals from last November, proved a consistently impassioned presence, as would-be lover in “O soave fanciulla,” convincingly guilt-ridden in Act III’s reconciliation scene, and heart-breaking in his sorrow and desperation in the tragic finale, all without drifting into the maudlin or melodramatic. 

As Marcello, Lucas Meachem was strong and impetuous, a touch frivolous, and clearly devoted to his friend Rodolfo. The overstuffed staging of Act II distracts from Marcello’s infatuation with Musetta,, but this is a problem with the Zeffirelli production, not Meachem’s fault.  

Peter Kellner’s depiction of Colline was similarly sturdy, especially in his Act IV lament about sacrificing his beloved overcoat in hopes of aiding Mimi.  As Schaunard, Alexander Birch Elliott was at his best in his celebratory moment in Act I.

Gabriella Reyes made a charming and entertaining Musetta.  Her rendition of the famous Waltz was coquettishly charming, and her grief over Mimi’s fate proved affecting.

Taking over conducting duties, Carlo Rizzi maintained the same high standard established by Eun Sun Kim in her widely highly acclaimed Met debut. Rizzi set natural tempos throughout that allowed every nuance of Puccini’s sublime orchestration to shine,  drawing a command performance from the Met Orchestra musicians. 

La Bohème continues with the current cast through January 22, with Aleksandra Kurzak and Yusif Eyvasov taking the lead roles May 16-27.

Arlo McKinnon is a composer, music preparation specialist and longtime writer on music.  He is a regular contributor to Opera News, and has written program notes and recording notes for several performance venues and organizations.

Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera

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