La Bohème was written by Giacomo Puccini in 1896. Puccini wrote some of the most popular and frequently-performed operas of all time. His was able to conjure up great melodies and he had a strong theatrical sense. Combine this with the fact that he was an outstanding orchestrator, who could produce incredibly rich harmonies, and it is small wonder that he was so successful.
La Bohème is the ideal opera with which to begin a collection. It is a concise work, full of the great melodies alluded to above, and it is about two young lovers, and, as is the case in many operas, love is denied by death. When Rudolfo realises that Mimi is dead he cries out as he rushes to her bed to bring the opera to a highly emotional close.
There are many fine recordings of this hugely popular opera but our top recommendation has to be this fine account by Herbert von Karajan; recorded in 1972 but recently remastered for this release. Here Karajan directs the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and shows a clear understanding of the fact that the inner drama of the opera is played out in the orchestra through Puccini’s adept manipulation of themes and his highly accomplished orchestration. His star soloists include Luciano Pavarotti as Rodolfo, in what is arguably one of his finest performances, and the magnificent Mirella Freni as Mimi. The disc comes with a useful synopsis of the opera, by George Hall, and contains a full libretto.
The finest performance of La Bohème to be recorded; by Thomas Beecham with an outstanding array of soloists, including Victoria de los Angeles, Jussi Björling, Fernando Corena, Robert Merrill andf Giorgio Tozzi, is only available in a mono recording and thus just misses inclusion in our Collection.
For those who prefer their opera complete with video; the performance recorded live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, in December 2009 represents a great choice. With historically accurate designs, by Julia Trevelyan Oman, an excellent cast headed by Hibla Gerzmava and Teodor Ilincai combined with fine camera work what is there not to enjoy?
Buy it from Presto Classical.