Richard Jones’ production of Puccini’s La Bohème recorded at the Royal Opera House in 2020 is, at first glance, a highly conventional “traditional” La Bohème. There’s no subtext. The story unfolds strictly in line with the libretto. And yet there’s something going on that raises it above the level of the typical canary fanciers’ La Bohème. Ultimately I think it’s a combination of avoiding sentimentality or glitz or glamour and really focussing on the characters and the relationships between them. It seems that the revival direction team of Julia Burbach and Simon Iorio and the cast have really worked on this.
Musically, the 2007 Spoleto Festival recording of Handel’s Ariodate is very good indeed. Unfortunately the production, at least as rendered on DVD, is a bit of a snooze. Director John Pascoe has chosen to set the piece in 1957 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival. The court of the king of Scotland is supposed to evoke the “glamour” of the court of the young Elizabeth II. There is also a partially twisted mirror that is supposed to remind us of the deception and self-deception intrinsic to the plot. I only know this because of the bonus interview with Pascoe as video director Matteo Ricchetti completely ignores it. There’s also a recurrent appearance of an image of Ginevra (Handel having fortuitously stumbled upon le nom juste for a character supposed to remind us of Margaret Windsor) framed by the garter ribbon and motto. Subtle. Continue reading →