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on December 16, 2009
What a beautiful piece, and what marvelous performances! Let me begin with Nicole Cabell as Musetta; this exotic beauty possesses amazing expression and humor. Watch Villazon's face, falling in love as he listens raptly to Mimi as she tells of herself: "all things gentle bring me joy; I don't always go to mass, but often pray alone in my little room". And Netrebko is entirely convincing, shyly beautiful yet passionate; the protagonists' passion is sincere and moving. The city streets and rooftops in the snow are a perfect backdrop to the tale, which alternates between joy and sorrow. Certainly this new version of this very popular piece need not yield to any other.
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on December 16, 2009
If this version of La Boheme doen't move you or bring you to tears, I don't know what will. The atmosphere, the set, the actors, the singing... everything is perfect, breathtaking and tragic. Villazon continues to bring his charisma and tender charm to the world of opera lovers and Netrebko is at her tragic, immaculate best. The singing will soothe away the darkness.

The DVD features the film version of Puccini's opera (directed by Robert Dornhelm) along with a Making of La Boheme and interviews with several of the cast members.

I was highly impressed with the creativity involved. The four acts float by, fluid, flawless and there isn't one dull or trite moment. If anything, Dornhelm has helped to enhance some of the minor and least known elements of the opera, bringing more insight and colour to an already incredible piece of music. In previous versions of La Boheme I've seen, the minor characters always felt more 'minor' as as if the director simply wanted to focus on the tragic lovers whereas here, everything and everyone is essential. Dornhelm has a compassion directorial eye and I found myself moved even by the toy salesman and the people waiting at the gate in the cold.

A must have. If you loved Gianfranco de Bosio's version of Puccini's Tosca this is another DVD to own, cherish and watch on a wintery night. Best enjoyed in the company of pizza, wine, french bread and good opera-loving friends.
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VINE VOICEon December 9, 2009
While my personal favorite of Puccini's operas is most definitely Tosca, especially the Georghiu / Alagna version, this is a lovely performance of the ever popular La Boheme. Mireila Freni and Eva Marton, for example, have splendid voices, but there's no doubt that a handsome, well matched pair like Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon carry a great deal of conviction as the young lovers of the tale. Their looks and considerable acting ability are further enhanced by the realistic settings of Dornhelm's production. I don't see any objection to the "feature filmification" of operas, though some purists despise it; after all, the costumes, stars and sets of opera in previous centuries must have had the same kind of impact on the observer then as the silver screen does today.

Netrebko and Villazon sing and act superbly; the Vienna sets are most convincing. The widescreen is great. The support performances are also first rate, especially Nicole Cabell as Musetta. It's a delightful emotional wallow!
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on January 1, 2010
First, I'd like to say that overall I enjoyed this film. Widescreen, superb picture and sound, gorgeous principals with 2 of the top voices of our era, delivers much of what I'd hoped from this new, enhanced, blue-ray version. Using the movie medium to show outdoor scenes of Paris, quick cuts to show happenings in different places at the same time added dimension and realism. But, for every felicity added, the film managed to subtract something equally important.

For instance, when the men are horsing around upstairs, Mimi is shown hearing the raucus downstairs in her apartment, then purposely bringing a candle up the stairs and blowing it out to join the party. A nice bit of motivation. But then when she and Rudolfo leave his apartment to join the others at Momus, she leads him by the hand into her apartment, where they are shown undressed, making passionate love. It is very physical and rapidly advances their relationship, but a bit of a shock to how they are able to fit this in, yet still make it to the festivities in time for dinner. Arguably, an acceptable, although awkward, trade-off. But, being a film, there are constantly issues that take away from our sense of involvement.

In many cases, the singers voices are slightly out-of-synch. Similarly, there is cut after cut where the action doesn't quite match with the previous scene. In some cases, there are excesses where one scene superimposes on another to give some sort of filmic, dreamy effect that takes away, rather than enhances our involvement. There are also scenes, typical of many filmed versions of operas, where the singers are heard singing, but where on camera, they are just making love. Adds to the sensual, physicality, but reminds us that we are not seeing this live, but watching a highly manipulative film. The ultimate travesty, in my view, was the final scene of the film, where the producers used what I'm sure they thought was an artistic, symbolic device to give meaning to the film, but which I thought totally destroyed the impact. See for yourself, your reactions may vary!
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VINE VOICEon January 2, 2010
This film version of La Boheme is gorgeous! The cinematography is beautiful and tasteful, and the singing is all top-notch, crowned by a performance by Anna Netrebko as Mimi. Her voice has luster and charisma, and her acting is right on the money. Rolando Villazón's only fault, vocally, is that he is not Pavarotti; otherwise, he is among the very best tenors today, having a beautiful, powerful, and passionate voice, and impeccable technique. His acting was just a tad over the top for a film, but it would have played perfectly in the opera house.

In a way, my review should stop here. I recommend this wholeheartedly to the most discriminating of opera lovers; and this is the first mainstream opera that I have seen on Blu-ray that can stand up to the competition in all formats. As always, however, there are a few caveats that perhaps should be mentioned.

This is opera as film, not simply a film of a staged production, although it was inspired by the two principals' on-stage performances together. The reader/shopper probably already knows whether or not he or she likes opera presented in movie format, so I will not discuss the pros and cons, except to make two observations specific to this film: (1) this is, for much of the time, not a lip-sync job for the principals, which is unusual for opera-on-film, and (2) the director used only very sparingly (twice, I think) the device wherein singers' voices are heard without their moving their lips (as is done sometimes for day-dream sequences). In this case the main use for it was to show Mimi's inner thoughts when she would have been too weak to have sung them in real life. Returning to the first point, however, lip-syncing was used for some of the characters, in which photogenic actors were seen but opera singers were heard. There is also some lip-syncing by the principals when it was impractical to record the voices on the set. The bonus materials mention the difficulties inherent in keeping the singers in sync with the orchestra, which was recorded in a separate studio at another time. The final result, however, is excellent; and on the whole, I'd say that this transformation of opera to the movies is less jarring than most.

Among the 71 minutes of extras, the director, Robert Dornhelm speaks about several of the choices he made, big and small. The most important choice he made was to keep things traditional; there is no attempt to update the setting, costumes, or circumstances in order to pander to more modern, or simply restless, tastes. He wisely realized that straying from the original concept would have only taken it downhill. He had also made a version of the film in which there was somewhat extensive use of CGI and other special effects but ended up using almost none in the final cut. A few scenes are shown in black-and-white, an effect that mostly worked well and for which the justification was rather obvious; but there was one mostly black-and-white scene, in which a stand of flowers was deliberately singled out for color. While it was effective, and pleasantly reminded me of a famous scene from a Fellini movie, I did not feel that it was organic to the mood here--it was distracting, but only for a second or two, as it caused me to pause to contemplate its "meaning"; on the other hand, it could be considered a good thing that the director threw us something additional to chew on. In any case this was a rare exception within a production that is distinguished by its lack of tricks, an homage to the time-tested genius of Puccini.

Musically, one could hardly desire more. In the beginning of the first act, the tempi may have been ever so slightly fast, and I was afraid that the conductor was going to take a somewhat business-like, let's-get-this-thing-over-with, tack; but that did not last long at all; there was plenty of good 'ole romantic wallowing in tears to come. Indeed, the quick pace of the first few moments was consistent with the vision of the film director, who conceded that the first act is the most difficult to bring off, and who opted to bring out its more humorous aspects; sparing us any unnecessarily-early hint of the pathos to come.

The only other nit picking is to mention a couple of minor (almost theoretical) shortcomings in the final product:

(1) The highest-tech soundtrack available on this Blu-ray is Dolby 5.1. (There is also "Dolby 2.0," and I am not quite sure what that means -- 2-channel PCM encoded for Dolby Pro Logic, maybe, for the benefit of older receivers that cannot process a digital input?) Many operatic and concert DVDs provide DTS 5.1 as a sometimes preferable option; and of course Blu-ray often offers further enhancements to these formats, including the possibility of 5, 6, or 7 uncompressed audio channels. As something of a long-time audiophile and techno-geek, I have to mention this lack of state-of-the-art-edness; but I also have to say that it makes virtually no difference. Yes, it is conceivable that a more detailed audio could have been attained, but to what point? This Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is beautiful and perfectly fits the look of the film. For that matter, it would also have been possible to capture a more starkly detailed picture through the use of direct video, but the softer images of cinematic film better suit the mood. None of this, however, is to deny the superiority of the Blu-ray edition of this film versus the DVD; "softness" is one thing, a DVD's 5.5-times loss of detail is quite another, if one is watching on a large screen.

(2) Kultur provides no booklet, and the jacket almost requires one to use a magnifying glass to find the name of the orchestra and conductor (both of whom contributed greatly to the overall high standard of musical performance). The only readily visible credits are to Netrebko, Villazón, and Dornhelm. As to the absence of program notes, the justification, no doubt, is that there is an abundance of information in the rolling credits, as well as in the generous bonus features; and of course, the optional subtitles mostly do away with any need for printing the libretto. However, on this latter point, the subtitles were not perfect; and it would have been nice to have had a printed copy of the original Italian. In addition, there are times one would like to refer to notes rather than having to put the Blu-ray in the machine, wait for all the preliminaries to pass, and then scan through for the sought-after factoid.
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on April 9, 2011
In the product description it says "Alfie Boe's slightly earnest, boyish charm was through and through honest, from start to tragic finish.....the intensity and truthfulness he communicates is irresistible." This is so true. His portrayal of Rodolfo is brilliant. I don't want to give away the ending, but his final scenes are so real, so believable, and the intense emotion he is feeling pulls at your heart strings. I have never really been an opera fan before, but Alfie Boe has broadened my horizons. La Boheme is a very famous opera, and this version is special because it has Alfie Boe in it. I usually sing his praises because of his beautiful voice and his charm & wonderful personality. His performance in this play, along with his amazing performance as Jean Valjean in the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert DVD, show that he is also a gifted actor. If you're an Alfie Boe fan, you HAVE to buy this DVD!
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on January 16, 2010
I love this video as an audio recording. I generally get tired of Boheme because it is played so much and sometimes I force myself to listen to it too often because every time I turn around, another of my favorite singers has been recorded in it, so I feel I must experience it again. This time, I did not get tired of the music or the singing. It is wonderful to have as an audio recording, but so far, I have not gotten through the thing visually because the close-ups really put me off. Also the acting is so over-the-top - fine for on stage, but in a film, I find it macabre. I saw many good things, particularly in the settings and the timing of the direction, but the close-ups and constant movement of the camera annoyed me, until I had to turn the video part off and just listen whilst doing something else.
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on June 16, 2011
This is a gorgeous production, with marvelous singing, direction, sets and libretti. Alfie Boe's acting is deeply authentic and he shows a range of feelings which ring true. Despite his youth, or perhaps partly because of it, there's something which he brings to the role of Rudolfo which is quite beyond Pavarotti's version. His expressions of excitement, nervousness, pride, delight, love, tenderness, frustration and grief reveal a fine acting ability in addition to his breathtaking singing. This is a stellar performance all around.
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on December 24, 2009
I'm glad so many people enjoyed this presentation but to me it was a definite disappointment due to lip syncing out of sync; lack of chemistry; lack of sincere emotion due to lip sync rather than live singing; actors mouthing singers; almost every mistake that could be made with the direction of a film of this opera seems to have been made. I much prefer the Met production of the early 80's with Jose Carreras and Theresa Stratas for singing, sets, costumes and acting. Even Pavarotti's is acceptable. The pair, Netrebko and Villazon, are two of my favorite singers and I loved their La Traviata from Saltzburg but again, that was a live performance not a movie. I thought the Musetta "blah", as was the Marcello. I bought it upon release but will not watch it very often as the Met's two productions on DVD are both better than this film. Anna did come across well in the acting dept. but Rolando still was "too big" in gestures and singing for film - great on stage. The emotion was flat through most of the film and the ending was unemotional. The director didn't notice that the great emotion comes from Rodolfo's grief and heartbreaking sobs of "Mimi". I did not tear up which is the test of any good La Boheme ending.

The Met is filming such great productions in HD for broadcast into the theaters and DVD release that a movie no longer holds the best technology for opera performance. The electricity and chemistry of a stage production will beat a movie just about any time ESPECIALLY if lip syncing is used. These are professional singers and they should be allowed to sing not lip sync and badly. Sets and costumes were ok and traditional. I really wanted to love it but just too disappointed in the overall effect. I've seen so many La Bohemes on stage that were so superior to this film. Just a big disappointment.
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on May 16, 2011
This English National Opera Prodection of Boheme is not the best I've ever seen, but it's certainly not the worst. I purchased it mainly out of curiosity to see what Alfie Boe could do with traditional opera, and the answer is . . . "quite a bit." I still find English translations somewhat off-putting--but I can see the purpose. If making it accessible to more music lovers grows the opera audience, it can only be good. Having grown up with an Italian Boheme,I did occasionally wish for the liquid vowels. That said, I found the technical production to be very good and Mr. Boe is indeed a force to reckon with. His connection to his audience is nothing short of stunning. Would I buy the disc again? Absolutely! But the Met and Stratas/Carreras are still the benchmark production for me.
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