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Royal Opera - la Bohème

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As I'm getting 2-3 ads for la Boheme in my gmail account almost every day at the moment, out of idle curiosity thought I'd look to see how the tickets were doing. And no wonder they are so deperately plugging it - a few randomly selected dates show its barely half full - far less on one date.

Not like the ballet side of ROH then!

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Blimey.  Not that I'm a fan of Bohème at the best of times, but I thought it'd sell better than that.  Are those the dates with the second cast, though?

 

Could it be that the ROH has annoyed its regular operagoers to the same extent as the balletgoers?

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I see Marcelino Sambé thanked the ROH for his ticket for Boheme opening night and a number of other dancers attended but I guess there are only so many tickets the ROH can give away to Royal Ballet dancers.

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My view is that the current production falls into the cheap and dreary category. So there may be little repeat business from season to season unless some star name acts as a draw. 

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21 minutes ago, Geoff said:

My view is that the current production falls into the cheap and dreary category. So there may be little repeat business from season to season unless some star name acts as a draw. 

 

Also, the casting - as is so often the case with Royal Opera revivals of standard rep - gives the impression of having been a bit thrown together.  It's not that the individual singers aren't appealing, more that one often doesn't get that "oh yes, wouldn't those two be lovely together" feeling.  Often, when there are several casts, I reckon I could put all the singers back into a pool and re-combine them in a more attractive way.

 

That said, I did see it last week, and found the combination of Sonya Yoncheva and Charles Castronovo rather lovely, not least because (like some of our Royal Ballet favourites) he is such a supportive and generous colleague to whoever he is partnering.  Aida Garifullina left a strong impression as Musetta, too.  But I don't like the production, and I don't know anyone who does!  Considering that Richard Jones is, on the whole, one of my favourite directors, and I was really looking forward to his Boheme on the basis of his considerable track record with Puccini (I'm thinking especially of Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi and La fanciulla del West - his Tabarro lacks atmosphere), it's incredibly disappointing that it turned out so boring.

 

And as others suggest, the recent hike in ticket prices is certainly a factor.

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La Traviata isn’t selling too well right now either - so I don’t think the problem is specific to the new Boheme production (which I’ve not yet felt moved to see).

Edited by Lizbie1

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7 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

La Traviata isn’t selling too well right now either - so I don’t think the problem is specific to the new Boheme production (which I’ve not yet felt moved to see).

 

Five casts, all with that thrown-together feel, less than a full year after the best-cast revival of it I've ever seen...  It's the production I've seen more often than any other opera production (indeed I'd be surprised if there are people who've seen it more times than I have) and even I struggled to convince myself that there were singers I probably really ought to check out this time round.

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Which reminds me - Richard Morrison in his review of the current Boheme run pointed out that even the revival director has been double cast!

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I don't even know who *is* cast any more, with the paucity of information the ROH sends out.

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5 hours ago, RuthE said:

Five casts, all with that thrown-together feel, less than a full year after the best-cast revival of it I've ever seen...  It's the production I've seen more often than any other opera production (indeed I'd be surprised if there are people who've seen it more times than I have) and even I struggled to convince myself that there were singers I probably really ought to check out this time round.

 

I'm going to see it - actually the first time I'll have seen the production live - because it's the first opportunity to see Aleksandra Kurzak's Violetta in this country & I've been a fan of hers since I saw her as Susannah back in 2006. However I confess that when I looked at the other casts there weren't even many singers I'd heard of, let alone particularly wanted to see. Likewise I haven't heard of most of the singers in the second cast of Boheme, and does it really need 2 casts in January then another cast in May? Though the May cast does at least contain more recognisable names, including Duncan Rock who looks to be the only British singer in a principal role across the three casts. I know I'll probably be told off for being parochial and I absolutely understand the casting of lots of foreign singers when they're big names but if the ROH is going to cast non-star foreign singers then I can't help but think there are probably plenty of British singers around who they could cast who would be equally good & would make me for one more likely to come to more performances.

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And it's not only La Bohème - even La Traviata has lots of unsold seats too!  That's unheard of.  For the performance I've just sampled, virtually the whole of Stalls Circle A is unsold - and this is for a performance next week.  Perhaps people are balking at paying over £200 per seat?!  Lucky students, I guess.  In past years, such a number of unsold tickets would have been offered up at discounted rates on somewhere like Travelzoo, Time Out offers etc., but I've not noticed that happening recently - does anyone know otherwise?  Surely better to sell them cheaper than have loads of students snap them up at a tenner or so?  I dread to think what the ROH's books are going to look like soon if this continues.

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The hike in prices is surely hitting everyone apart from the particularly well-heeled. It has certainly hit me as I find that I have to fall back on the cheapest seats and to limit the number of performances that I would otherwise attend and I can't, for one moment, imagine that I am the only one. The words 'cutting', 'nose', 'spite' and 'face' uncannily come to mind ...

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I managed to get a reasonably priced seat during the last run and would like to have seen it again. But the ticket prices make it prohibitive. Which leads ballet is expensive enough, opera has become a no go area. Tristan and Elektra, both of which I would like to see, are just impossible, unless you can manage amphi tickets, which I can't.

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On 23/01/2020 at 14:10, Geoff said:

My view is that the current production falls into the cheap and dreary category. So there may be little repeat business from season to season unless some star name acts as a draw. 

Really?  I saw it on first night when Sonya Yoncheva had to pull out, and it was absolutely sparkling.  Yes, had seen this production first time round and liked it, but this time was fabulous.  Obviously papered as there were people there from choirs and music groups who had been offered best available for £15. We had a wonderful post Christmas treat which the audience completely got behind which made it extra special.  Not to mention Francesca Hayward with Cesar Corrales sitting infront of us with Matthew Ball adjacent.

 

if you don’t like the Production, well then you don’t but cheap and dreary? Really?  One of the most colourful andprobably most expensive sets in the ROH repertoire.

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Having this afternoon seen a catch-up showing of Wednesday's streamed performance, I simply cannot agree to any description calling it "cheap and dreary."  Different strokes for different folks, as ever, but the combination of singers and staging appeared to have gone down exceedingly well with all of those around us, and it certainly drew all of the emotional response one might expect from Puccini's masterpiece. 

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1 hour ago, penelopesimpson said:

 this time was fabulous.  

 

Yes, I saw some critical comment which suggested the show has somehow bedded down, so perhaps I should have gone back.

 

1 hour ago, penelopesimpson said:

probably most expensive sets in the ROH repertoire.

 

Not sure that’s right. For a start, little of the production is very dimensional, which is what costs the money. It works on camera though, a criterion which is either the thin end of a dangerous wedge (in some people’s eyes) or a triumph of open access for the people (in the eyes of eg ACE).

 

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9 hours ago, Ian Macmillan said:

Having this afternoon seen a catch-up showing of Wednesday's streamed performance, I simply cannot agree to any description calling it "cheap and dreary."  Different strokes for different folks, as ever, but the combination of singers and staging appeared to have gone down exceedingly well with all of those around us, and it certainly drew all of the emotional response one might expect from Puccini's masterpiece. 

My point exactly.  It is many things - for me wonderfully colourful, amazingly poignant but fast moving and an exceptionally enjoyable evening which it would be hard not to enjoy.  But if it doesn’t do it for you, then it doesn’t, but I simply cannot see how it could ever qualify as cheap and dreary. Puzzled. 

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1 hour ago, penelopesimpson said:

 I simply cannot see how it could ever qualify as cheap and dreary. Puzzled. 

 

When the show first came out, Stephen Jay-Taylor wrote:

 

>>The outer acts set in the attic look like a touring production of "Oklahoma!" sponsored by IKEA, all blond wood, ridiculously brightly lit, and so shallow and squat in design that the cast have nowhere even to stand (let alone sleep four) other than to line up at the front, where they still can't be seen by anyone in the upper reaches of the house because of the set's low cluster of beams.

 

Similar remarks appeared in a number - but not all - of the broadsheet reviews. 

 

Here is a review of the latest revival:

 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opera/what-to-see/la-boheme-royal-opera-house-review-one-ear/

 

But, as always, other opinions are available. 

 

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I’m inclined to agree with you about the “new” attic set, Geoff.  

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There's quite a lot I don't like about the current ROH production, which in our household is referred to as the "IKEA Production" (and that was before I'd read the review that Geoff mentioned above).  The garret room is far too clean and clinical (bohemians....) and I can't stand the writing on the walls etc. scene, which doesn't mean much to me or add to the story.

 

Why is everyone in the café still wearing their coats?  Is it less well heated than the tavern?  And, oh my, what the heck is the tavern?  Why is it in the middle of nowhere when it's in the middle of Paris?  And the way the tavern and brazier slowly move off stage is just ludicrous (at least they don't squeak and shudder as they did when the production was new).

 

The shop arcades are very pretty.

 

Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed the singing at the show I went to (about a week after @penelopesimpson) and was more moved than I think I have ever been at boheme.

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Oh. Having never remotely been moved at a performance of Bohème, perhaps I should give it another chance.  I watched it on TV when it first came out, and totally agreed about the IKEA-ness of the garret set, but also about the sumptuousness of the arcades.  But it still didn't move me one iota, and I've decided that possibly Bohème just doesn't do it for me.

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