Francesca Zambello's stunning production of Puccini's opera La Boheme in London for 14 performances only produced by Raymond Gubbay.
Puccini's La Boheme - Staged in the round - Sung in Italian with English surtitles
From the rapturous grand scale celebrations of Cafe Momus to the tender intimacy of the artisan's garret, audiences were drawn from all sides into the unfolding action on the Arena stage where passion and spectacle mixed with despair and ultimate tragedy. Staged fully in the round with set design by Peter J. Davison, costumes by Sue Willmington and original choreography by Arthur Pita, this production has already captivated 50,000 people as the entire floor of the Royal Albert Hall was transformed into 1940's Paris. The gaiety of the station café, the bitter cold of the police checkpoint and the harsh reality of the student's stark surroundings - all beautifully depicted and brought to life in every detail. Accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
"Absolutely terrific" The Independent
Previously seen to great acclaimed from both critics and audiences alike when it was staged at the Royal Albert Hall from 26 February to 13 March 2004 and from 23 February to 11 March 2006. Francesca Zambello's other London directing credits include the Andrew Sabiston and Timothy Williams show Napoleon the Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2000 and the Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern musical Show Boat at the Royal Albert Hall in 2006.
"Francesca Zambello's vivid staging" The Observer
"[Raymond Gubbay's] in-the-round 'spectaculars' at the Albert Hall have become an annual fixture. And very welcome they are, too, when they are as revivable and repeatedly enjoyable as Francesca Zambello's vividly showbizzy La boheme... After a decade of producing staged opera in an auditorium not exactly tailor made for the art form, Gubbay and his production teams have found a way of making Kensington's Big O work, and that includes the controversial amplification of orchestra and voices. It may not be the ideal way to listen to classical music, but technical improvements make it increasingly bearable, even for opera-goers used to the natural acoustic of a lyric theatre. Indeed, I would urge Covent Garden and Coliseum regulars to catch Zambello's La boheme, if they haven't already. As a reading of one of the most (over) performed classics in the repertoire, it ranks as the most theatrical staging London has seen in my opera-going lifetime. Zambello is good at creating spectacle out of the deployment of soloists, chorus and acting extras - the cafe scene is enlivened by an acrobatic muscleman and a virtuoso troupe of roller-skating waiters who whizz from one end of the acting platform, carrying tables, drinks and meals at breakneck speed while pirouetting ostentatiously. Its camp, certainly, but this action-packed scene can take it, and it's exhilarating to watch. The real success of Zambello's staging, however, is the intimacy she achieves in such a vast and unpromising space." The Sunday Times 2006
"A terrific production no opera-lover should miss" The Sunday Express
"Promoted by Raymond Gubbay, that operatic poacher turned gamekeeper, this is truly 'opera for everyone': a show for people wary of stuffy opera houses that doesn't make too many artistic compromises. Even the amplification, a necessity for in-the-round staging, is well balanced... Above all, there is Francesca Zambello's staging - the best of Gubbay's Albert Hall operas to date. The Parisian railway station setting of the designer Peter J. Davison allows for both intimacy and spectacle, and Sue Willmington's post-Liberation costumes are evocative. Lives are shown in transit, as it were, and even the landlord Benoit becomes a train conductor. Zambello handles her crowds with consummate control, and Arthur Pita's choreography for the roller-skating waiters adds West End gloss to this moving opera." The Sunday Telegraph (2006)
"Combines intimacy, simplicity and spectacle to great effect" The Independent on Sunday
"This opera has it all - good jokes, young love, sad partings, exuberant merry-making, tragedy, great tunes and fabulous, romantic Paris. Sung in English, La Boheme is the perfect starter opera, especially if you love dramatic musicals... Puccini knew how to please an audience with melody after unforgettable melody. You may think you don't know any opera but you'll recognise these songs... Director Francesca Zambello has set Puccini's 1896 masterpiece in another exciting time, the Paris of the late 1940s in one of the great French railway stations. Within Peter J Davison's effective train-platform design, travellers come and go, losing one lover, gaining another. Wherever you look there is something for the eye to feast on, roller-skating waiters, a strongman, a birdman or the children. The singers are young, talented, and good-looking, some of our best British and foreign performers... The intimacy of the first and last scenes is hard to find in the vast open spaces of the Royal Albert Hall and some of the lyrics go west too. But these are small objections in a thrilling evening. If this La Boheme doesn't turn you into an instant opera fanatic, nothing will." The Daily Express (2006)
La Boheme in London at the Royal Albert Hall opens on 27 February 2014 and closes on 9 March 2014.