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Telarc Releases American Recordings of Puccini's Classic La Boheme
Two-disc set with full libretto on sale July 1, 2008
Telarc International and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra released a brilliant recording of Puccini’s much-loved opera, La Bohème. The 2-disc recording features a full 88-page libretto, and is available in retail stores at special 2-for-1 pricing.
As even the casual opera fan knows, La Bohème is the story of friendship, love and loss in a community of bohemians in 19th century Paris. For its time, the story was the antithesis of the usual elements of melodrama (intrigue, violence, jealous rage, assassinations, etc.). Instead, La Bohème is an intimate view of the intertwined lives of a colorful group of young individuals.
“Like the characters themselves, the singers on our recording are young, and that freshness is apparent in their voices,” says Telarc President Robert Woods, co-producer of the recording. “I am continually taken by the sincerity and vitality of this cast. When it was decided to perform and record the opera at the opening of the ASO’s 2007-08 season, conductor Robert Spano knew that he wanted his Bohème to be youthful, theatrical, and most importantly, believable. We at Telarc could not agree more, and we knew that we had to come up with a listening experience that exceeded the expectations of live recording. It needed to sound as good as – or better than – if we had done it in sessions.”
Woods adds: “Each singer is vocally and dramatically different, yet at the same time complimentary, as are their personalities. This enhances the development and interaction of their characters, and is an asset in the many places where Puccini has them singing different texts simultaneously. We had to hear those distinctions, so it was crucial to capture the voices in as clear and tactile a way as possible. We also wanted them moving on stage to support the theatricality and flow of the music. Opera is, after all, about singing – and the communication of the story as the words ride on the voice. And Bohème in particular is about ensemble.”
Indeed, the singers faced high expectations. “This recording was never intended to be about superstars. It’s about breathing life into this spectacular opera,” says co-producer Elaine Martone. “As for the recording, to have captured in live performance all the details and subtleties that allow the words and music to come alive so movingly is very gratifying.”
Lending support to the performances is the high standard of audio engineering to which Telarc has committed itself throughout its 30-year history. The miking is virtually invisible, and creates the truest possible representation of what’s actually happening onstage. Singers can be heard entering and exiting – moving on stage just as an audience would hear live. “This recording is completely organic,” says chief engineer Michael Bishop. “There is no compression, equalization or processing. We had the opportunity to remix later, but we didn’t. It simply came out too well to warrant any modification or enhancement.”
Critic Pierre Ruhe of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, on hand for the performance, had high praise for the performance in general, and especially for the final minutes of Act III, wherein lovers Mimi and Rodolfo bicker and reconcile, then reveal to each other the universal human fear of being alone. “It’s a ravishing few minutes of hope and pathos,” noted Ruhe in his review, “although the orchestra has already confirmed that the worst scenario is inevitable, for we’ve already heard Mimi’s music run through with the icy shiver of death. Here soprano Norah Amsellem, as the tubercular seamstress [Mimi], sang exquisite pianissimos, throbbing with expression yet hushed to a whisper.” Ruhe later noted that “orchestrally, as everyone anticipated, the performance was a revelation…Spano revealed every nuance of Puccini’s glittery, embroidered score – every bit of it amplified in our consciousness, a performance not soon forgotten.”
The cast of La Bohème is a dynamic group of talented performers. Soprano Norah Amsellem (Mimi) has sung La Traviata’s Violetta at the Vienna State Opera, Turandot’s Liù at the Metropolitan Opera. Soprano Georgia Jarman’s (Musetta) has performed at the New York City Opera and Cincinnati Opera, and has been engaged by the Caramoor Festival, Glimmerglass Opera and Dallas Opera, among others. Tenor Marcus Haddock (Rodolfo), who has performed at the Paris Opera, La Scala, Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, is known for both dramatic intensity and technical brilliance. At age 23, baritone Fabio Maria Capitanucci (Marcello) won the Singing Competition of the Teatro Lirico in Spoleto Italy. A regular guest at La Scala, Capitanucci has performed La Bohème’s Marcello, Un giorno di regno’s Cavalier Belfiore, Manon’s Lescaut and Cosi fan tutte’s Guglielmo. Other cast members include baritone Christopher Schaldenbrand (Schaunard), bass Denis Sedov (Colline) and basso buffo Kevin Glavin (Benoit/Alcindoro).