September 26, 2020
Alexandra Palace, LondonENO’s bravura car park production overcame all kinds of logistical and artistic challenges, though couldn’t quite convey Puccini’s raw immediacy
ENOs drive-in La bohème review – honk your horn for Mimi and Rodolfo
Mimi’s sickbed is the floor of her transit van. Rodolfo sits hunched against a wheel outside, the closest he dare get to his dying lover. Musetta makes her showy arrival in a convertible Merc, and an old ice-cream van serves as the Cafe Momus. Trailer-trash stagings are nothing new – many an old camper van has been rolled on to an operatic stage – but here we’re in a proper car park, this unparalleled season’s venue of choice for high art.
From soloists to musicians to conductor to stage crew to car park attendants, all involved in English National Opera’s drive-in La bohème deserve bravery awards. Surely this was the most physically exhausting and technically challenging production anyone has struggled to mount, made incalculably harder by social distancing. Man of the match goes to Ian Dearden, the sound design wizard who has a long history with ENO, and who found a way to bring the whole enterprise alive. The orchestra played wonderfully, harp and woodwind sounding close enough to be sitting in your lap, which is certainly a first.
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