Giacomo Puccini - La Boh¨¨me / Barker, Hobson, Luhrmann (Australian Opera)
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Product Description

Studio: Kultur Release Date: 07/25/2006

It might be possible to know this La Boh¨¨me and not love it, but I have never met anyone who felt that way. "Oh yes," said a friend, "that's the good one where everybody is the right age." The youth and freshness of the singers are, in fact, major assets in this production. Youthful high spirits and vulnerability are delicately portrayed, with sharp contrasts between the Parisian bohemians' abject poverty and their carefree lifestyle. On DVD, La Boh¨¨me is the work where the competition is strongest. Solid arguments can be made for the staging of the Metropolitan Opera production or the vocal quality of the San Francisco production, but the Australian Opera offers the closest identification of performers with the characters they represent. The effect is usually touching, sometimes downright electrifying.

For this production, the story is moved up to Paris in the 1950s. A veneer of existentialism, a sense of the absurd, can be detected in the young men's lifestyle, but the implicit message is that, even with electricity (e.g., a massive neon sign celebrating "L'Amour"), bohemian life in the 1950s was essentially unchanged from the 1830s. There are good performances throughout, particularly by David Hobson (Rodolfo) and Cheryl Barker (Mimi), and the direction of Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge) is outstanding. --Joe McLellan

Customer Reviews:

  • New Look at a Puccini Standard
    Having seen and heard so many productions of this great opera, including seeing the incomparable team of Freni and Pavarotti, I approached this production with some trepidation. Baz Luhrmann is a respected director, but inexperienced in opera. The cast looked a little too pretty, and I worried that the whole thing might be just a tad too slick for me. Those worries completely vanished by Mimi's entrance. This is an excellent production, suitable for both opera neophytes and connoisseurs.

    David Hobson may just be the best looking Rodolfo you've ever seen. He gave a wonderful, fully invested performance. His vocal problems were a fast vibrato and some lip and jaw tension. Nonetheless, he sang in tune, and was completely believable as the poet who loses his heart to Mimi. Cheryl Barker was an excellent Mimi. Her most important and exposed arias ("Si. Mi chiamano Mimi" and "Donde lieta usci") were very well done. Her only issue was Italian pronunciation, an issue she shared with others in the cast. Christine Douglas was a very good Musetta. She was feisty, flirty, and just a bit of a diva. She would be a perfect Musetta, were it not for some intonation issues. I really enjoyed listening to and watching Roger Lemke as Marcello. He's got an amazing baritone instrument, and he sang and acted the part beautifully. David Lemke (Schaunard) and Gary Rowley (Colline) were amazing singers.

    But in my mind, what sets this opera apart and makes it worth owning is the production itself. It is visually interesting. The gray, dingy garret in Act 1 is contrasted by vibrant costume colors on the guys. Color plays a prominent role in this show. Throughout much of the opera, "L'amour" appears prominently on the set. The Cafe Momus scene was crowded, with well choreographed disorder and just a little decadence. The relationships between the characters were all well developed and believable. The acting was generally outstanding. The camera work is superb, giving you a nice seat on stage. This production really reflected a great director and an outstanding production staff.

    Baz Luhrmann showed his full game with Mimi's death scene. It was amazing. As Mimi lay dying, singing with Rodolfo, Schaunard was in a window upstage right, smoking, with his back to the audience. He put the cigarette out on stage in a slow, defeated kind of way. When Mimi died, all of the principals were facing at an angle upstage, heads bowed as if in prayer, with Rodolfo center stage on a ladder. When he learns that Mimi is dead, his legs turn to rubber and it looks as though he can hardly make it down the ladder. His audible sobbing continues though a slow, silent blackout. It was chilling, and you could hear a pin drop in the audience even after the set went to black. Wow.

    Highly recommended....more info
  • Miking/Synching
    An affecting performance to be sure, and great fun to watch. But those who remark on Hobson's "great voice" should be aware that the singers were either heavily miked or lip-synching to a recording. To the trained ear, Hobson has a tiny, light "tenorino" voice that without amplification would be swallowed up in an opera house and buried by an orchestra. No voice can be judged until it is heard in person, sans microphones. Any good tenor can sound as powerful as Domingo or Heppner with plenty of amplification. But the real power of the voice is another matter....more info
  • Overrated
    DVD looks GOOD. Mimi sounds OK. Rodolpho sings with little strength and less conviction. For those who put more credence in surface quality and less on singing find this Boheme wonderful, but I must caution those prospective buyers who still consider the singing in an opera as first and foremost: you will be disappointed. I bought this and stopped it during the Gelida Manina, as the sound of beautiful music being sung by this Rodolpho was too much to bear. I suppose that the appeal of this version of La Boheme is for young people who long for a classical MTV with pretty faces and not so much talent. Sad....more info
  • Luhrmann's first Boh¨¨me - classic performances that continue to thrill
    This DVD of the legendary production of La Boheme, directed by a young Baz Luhrmann, was beautifully filmed in February 1993 by Geoffrey Nottage and is more like a musical drama than an opera, which is not surprising since Nottage was a leading TV drama director. Editing out the applause during the Acts also allowed the action to flow uninterrupted and greatly enhanced the dramatic effect.

    Luhrmann was inspired to update Puccini's opera from early 19th to mid 20th Century Paris - a move that worked surprisingly well - and for the six principal roles used the best young artists available in the Company at the time. They were chosen for their ability as singer/actors and not - as has often been suggested by critics - for their good looks, which was a bonus. It was claimed that the reason they worked so well together was because they were all friends offstage as well as on, and it showed. Roger and David Lemke, and David Hobson (Rodolfo) grew up together in the Victorian provincial city of Ballarat, and Cheryl Barker (Mimi) was from not-far-distant Geelong, Christine Douglas (Musetta) was another Victorian, while everyone had worked with the Victoria State Opera. Hobson and Barker had sung Rodolfo and Mimi in a VSO country tour of Boheme in 1987, so were old hands in the roles when the new updated version was premiered by The Australian Opera in Sydney, July 1990. This would explain the so-called chemistry between the two and why, when Rodolfo and Mimi were carrying on romantically at the side of the group during Musetta's 'Quando me'n vo' in Act II, Hobson pulled a very unromantic face at Barker, before turning with a look of total innocence to join in the next part of the ensemble. And how many Mimis would urge their Rodolfo forward for a solo curtain-call with the words "Go on mate!"? (Come to think of it, how many Rodolfos would have to be urged to take a bow?)
    Of the other young artists in the cast, David Lemke as Schaunard was a real scene-stealer for me, and I sometimes found myself watching him rather than the main characters. This tall young man, with his usually brown hair blonded for the role - probably to make him look less like his brother Roger (Marcello) - has a fine smooth baritone which I personally found more pleasing than his brother's darker voice.
    Any scene involving the four young men in their lighter moments is delightful but I particularly enjoyed Act II, even where things nearly got out of hand during the final ensemble when Barker accidently knocked over a glass and there seemed to be some sort of private joke between Roger Lemke and Hobson (again). On the other hand, the skylarking in Act IV is affected for me by the knowledge that everything is about to plunge into stark tragedy.

    Much has been written about the outstanding performance of David Hobson as Rodolfo, but what is probably not well-known overseas is that he is a high lyric tenor (actually a rare haute-contre) whose voice is best suited to the Mozart, Rossini and baroque/bel canto repertoire, so was courting vocal disaster singing a spinto tenor's role. That he managed to do it so well - but at the very limit of his voice-type - is a tribute to his artistry, although it's hard to listen to his big arias without fearing for that beautiful voice. However, he obviously avoided any lasting vocal harm because just six months after the 1993 Boheme season - with a light Offenbach role between - he sang his finest (and favourite) role of Orphee in Gluck's Orphee et Eurydice, a tenor tour de force but still kinder to the voice than Puccini! Just what a strain it was for him singing Rodolfo was demonstrated when, night after night, the young poet's tears for his dead Mimi became - after the end of the opera - the uncontrollable sobbing of a young singer at the end of his emotional and physical tether. Hobson said that after a performance he was 'wrecked', "because you can't just sing the words!" Before I saw the original VHS version, I'd listened to the performance highlights CD and was stunned by this highly dramatic conclusion of sobbing with the all too audible English words "I can't ... help me!", before the audience recovered sufficiently to begin their ovation. I'm afraid it took me more than a few minutes to recover, and it's usually impossible to watch the final scenes with dry eyes, even now.

    ...more info
  • Baz Luhrman spectacular
    This production with David Hobson and Cheryl is simply superb. Set in Parisian fifties, David Hobson's lyrical voice and gorgeous looks lend great empathy to the role. Cheryl Barker sings and acts beautifully and the whole production leaves not a dry eye in the house. Wonderful!...more info
  • Electric !
    The singing is wonderful and the acting is superb. The camera shots are very well done (none of that nervous, artsy jumping around that drives me nuts--as in Moulin Rouge). The setting in the 1950's works well because it is not overdone. The subtitles are adequate--although, at times, I wish they were a bit more complete. Every so often, a chorus will sing something without a subtitle. You get the drift, but it would be nice to have the text. Overall, this is a keeper....more info
  • This Different Approach Works!
    I remember seeing this when it was broadcast on PBS in the 90s and being appreciative of the youthful performers but little else.

    What a difference time makes! My disappointment in David Hobson's lighter-than-expected voice was replaced by his pathos in Act III; he and Cheryl Baker really "sold" that scene in a way I've not experienced in the opera house. Their playfulness in the snow as they walk off is a minor stroke of genius. And in ACT IV, Rodolfo doesn't rush to Mimi after he realizes she has died, but stands on the ladder, weeping; his grief is heard even after the orchestral sounds fade. These are just two of the many nuances that bring this opera to life in a very different, more immediate, way.

    I still have some reservations about Christine Douglas' Musetta (she sounds a little shrill to me), but the title of the work is "The Bohemians" and this performance stresses more than just the familiar "boy meets/loses/regains/loses" plot. ...more info
  • Breathtaking
    Baz Luhrmann is a genius. His works are visually and audibly stunning, and this is no exception. The two leads in this production do such an amazing job that at first I didn't think they were actually singing live - they make it look so effortless. The songs just pour forth in a spontaneous release of emotion that looks genuine and heartfelt. The more popular arias at the end of the first act were just stunning. I was so awe-struck that I had to watch them over and over before I could continue with the rest of the show.

    By the end, you'll be in tears. Even David Hobson (Rodolfo) was crying during the curtain calls, and I don't think it was just from the last scene. He looked truly overwhelmed with emotion - probably from the opera itself, as well as the exuberant adoration of the audience - and it was really quite touching to behold. He seems like a genuine article....more info

  • Good, but I am a little disappointed
    This opera is well sung and the music is well played, but I don't care much for Baz Luhrmans staging. In particular I was really disappointed with the overall look of the third act. Traditionaly, this act is an opportunity for the stage people to show off their skills and create a breathtaking outdoor winter scene. This third act looked like it took place in a concentration camp.
    Another thing I didn't like about this production, is the half-dead Australian audience, who apparently feel that applause is impolite. The only time they reacted was at the end of each act. I never heard any "bravos" or "bravas," even though they were clearly deserved.
    If you are looking for a nice DVD of this opera, I suggest one presented live by the Metropolitan Opera....more info
  • Yup!
    I was introduced to opera literally by a friend who sat my wife and me down on his deck overlooking San Francisco Bay back in the 60s, and played selections from Bjoerling's Boheme. A couple of years later we went to the San Francisco Opera to see Pavarotti and Freni in an earthquake interrupted triumph. Over the years I've seen Boheme many times (most recently two years ago a snoozer the Met) and own many recordings and videos as part of a very extensive collection.

    This afternoon I put this dvd on my computer, thinking I would stick it up in a corner and go about other work. Impossible to do. Soon I had it almost full screen, had turned out the lights and just let it rip on a good monitor and through a superb sound system. I'm not really an expert about these things, and I'm certainly not a purist. But if I wanted to create for someone else the excitement of hearing Bjoerling on that old RCA recording I'd give them this and a bottle of wine. They, too, would be hooked. Even without English subtitles (which I didn't miss for a second).

    Sure, it doesn't star Luciano or Jesse at their best, but Hobson and cast, thanks to fine direction, bring it to the video medium with style and, incidentially, very fine singing and, especially in the case of Barker, wonderful acting. And, though a few have quibled about some of the ensemble bits, I found them rather fresh and fun -- in this case fine theatre. There probably are some minor issues. Now and then I found the audio just a tad too crisp, but at the end of the day this is the one I will watch over and over. ...more info
  • A response to zhaouhui60's "Hobson using microphone???"
    It is my understanding that Opera Australia mics all the singers because the acustics of the hall are not ideal. This is why they are rebuilding the hall with better acustics. Hobson's voice is not the ideal voice for Rodolfo who is tradionally the territory of the more romantic tenors. His voice is not offensive, it's just small and very pinched. In your defense and for the benefit of future listeners, no one should ever buy the Domingo recording of La Boheme. Domingo never has and never will have a high C, he barely has a high B. Everytime on a recording or a video where you hear him sing high notes in excess of a high B flat, one of two things is happening: the piece is transposed down so that the highest he has to sing is a B flat and; it's an inserted high note that the recording studio has in a data base. Oops the secreat is out. That's right there are hundreds of recordings of many famous singers who for one reason or another could not sing the high note and so the recording studio edited another one in for them.

    Now, Hobson has, in fact, sung many other roles in operas. They have been all in Austrailia. The roles he has sung are very light roles, mostly Mozart and Rossini. So, Mr. William Shields was right in calling him a "tenorino" because that's what he is. I suggest that you look him up on and see what he's been singing and what he is singing. The type of roles that he is singing and the houses he is singing them in leeds me to believe that he is a singer that would have to be amplified in order to be heard above an orchestra.

    It is true that people cling to what they know. I have, however, not done this in my listening and viewing. I tend to gravitate towrads the lesser known singers. I would not necessairly call Hobson's voice a "great voice" the bottom line is he is just not that good as Rodolfo. I'm sure that he is a wonderful Mozart tenor and Rossini tenor, but he's no Puccini tenor....more info

  • One of the worst La Boheme's I've seen in a while
    The only thing that saves this performance are Luhrmann's sets and costumes. David Hobson(Tenor-Rodolfo) "sings" (I use the " because it appears that he is not actually singing but rather mouthing to someone else) with one of the most nasal and brassy sounding voices I have heard outside the Rossini rep. Only every once in a while does he seem to line up. The Mimi of Cheryl Barker is tolerable at best, her high C at the end of the Act 1 duet is pinched and forced. Christine Douglas as Musetta is probably the best of the cast. She does an exceptional job of driving the strong voiced Marcello (Roger Lemke) mad with envy. My only problem with Ms. Douglas is her high B flat at the end of "Quando men vo" (she sounds like she's going to die). I would rather listen to a 72 year old Carlo Bergonzi crack his way through Otello than listen to much of the singing in this production. The singers sound unpolished, they must only have been chosen for looks rather than vocal technique and abilities. Give me a tenor who sings well and I will not care what he looks like. I only wish that Jin Tea Kim, the tenor who plays Parpignol, was Rodolfo. He has a wonderful voice and hopefully we will hear more things from him in years to come. If I were anyone who loves this music I would look at either the Carreras or Pavarotti DVD's of this opera, even the Ramondi/Freni movie is better sung. As far as I see it the only redeming qualities of this DVD are the sets and costumes. If you must buy this DVD buy another one that has better singers on it please....more info
    AND basically that's what it is ~ a shameful tribute to the glorious technicolor period of those fascinating MGM musicals ~ also quite a splendid introduction to this work for Young Opera Neophytes.

    Staging is very economical, shot during a live performance ~ one is aware of this and not distracted as the Stage-Hands ala Kabuki move the sets, etc. Colors are vivid - splashes on Violet, Yellow, Green Plaid and the occasional Red - and Nobody, but nobody has a bad hair day in this show.

    Eye Candy abounds, there's the stunning David Hobson / Cheryl Barker duo [and just Where is Hollywood's eyes on this pair].

    Odd though - the later "Moulin Rouge" seems simply to be a reprise of this production complete with the look and design ~ would love to see Mr. Baz hit different notes ~ away from this gendre, but all in all there's not a dry eye in the house ~ highly recommended, especially for its youth!

    *** For fans who want more 'Hobson / Barker' ~ Miss Barker's 'Madame Butterfly' CD will be out soon, and the Supremely Versatile Mr. Hobson currently has three CDs available including the contemporary "Inside This Room"....more info

  • Overall, the best La Boheme I have seen
    Like many others, my favorite opera is Puccini's La Boheme. I have seen several performances and heard even more recordings and excerpts. By far my favorite performance and by far the one I have played the most is the 1993 Australian Opera performance with Cheryl Barker and David Hobson.

    Are Barker, Hobson, and the rest of the Australians as good musically as the likes of Freni, Pavarotti, and Von Karajan? No. If I want to hear the most wonderful singing and orchestral work, the 1972 studio recording with Von Karajan is superior. However, for me, the Australians do the opera as a whole better. The music making of both major and minor characters closely and consistently fits the story line. For example, when Hobson's Rodolfo sings Che Gelida Manina, the aria in which his lighter voice is most exposed, he sounds (and looks) more like a guy trying to hit on a girl than an opera singer trying to earn applause. Other factors also make a difference. Barker's Mimi understands a stage whisper. When she sings softly, you still hear and understand her. Freni, my all-time favorite Mimi, along with many other Mimi's, sometimes reduces the volume so low in soft sections that she can be quite difficult to hear. Finally, but not least, the acting and sets work much better for me than other versions.

    After seeing the Australians, I understand La Boheme in ways I had never done before. In particular, I understand that the Rodolfo has character flaws that are as important to the story as Mimi's illness. In the libretto, Rodolfo is not only beset by jealousy, he lies frequently. His biggest deception is not telling Mimi that he thinks she is fatally ill and that the living conditions he provides are contributing to her illness. Instead, he tells her that "You are not for me" and to find another boyfriend. Until, she overhears him in the third act, she never learns that he thinks another man might provide conditions that could save her life. When you watch or hear virtually all other versions, Rodolfo is played as a heroic person, not one who has hidden critical and vital information from his lover in order to preserve his own image.

    The libretto of La Boheme is distinguished by its many observations of human behavior and human nature. The Australians consistently illustrate what is happening in the libretto in detail and depth where typical performances tend to be hit and miss, sometimes glossing over the meaning of what is occurring while still singing all the words and playing all the notes. This attention extends beyond the words a principle sings to actions and behaviors not explicit in the libretto. Notice how Hobson's Rodolfo is overly fond of wine, sneaking a drink even as he first meets Mimi. Also note how the characters of Schaunard and Colline are developed beyond the libretto. In the Australians' production, they are clearly very good friends and are often seen conversing in the background. While Schaunard is flamboyant in his yellow suit, Colline is a prankster. See how he appropriates Schaunard's scarf at the beginning of the second act and later takes the place of the kid imitating Musetta's walk.

    The total result feels more like watching a movie than an opera. This feeling is enhanced by camera angles that one seldom sees when watching opera. The turning set lets you experience both the outside as well as the inside of Rodolfo's garret. When Mimi steps outside to see Rodolfo's friends, you can see her looking over rooftops after first glancing down. In the last act, note the view of Mimi from the side, i.e. from Rodolfo's viewpoint. The movie-like experience is so strong for me that I have to shut off the picture to really listen to the singing. When the picture is present, the orchestra actually fades into the background so much I have difficulty noticing it.

    In looking at several amateur reviews of the Australians' performance, I think others have also been seduced by the visual show into not really attending to the music making. A surprising minority of persons seem to think the Australians only look great and do not perform well musically, just as a surprising number believe that Anna Netrebko is all charisma and sex appeal and cannot really sing. In fact, both the Australians and Netrebko actually sing very, very well. Those who think the singing is poor or that the conducting is flabby should listen again without watching the picture. (If you have little time or patience, just compare the last half of Act 4 with your favorite version.) If I had to keep just one production of the opera, I would keep the Australian. While I would dearly miss the voices of Freni and Pavarotti, I prefer the totality of the experience provided by the Australians. Their version of La Boheme is the one to which I return the most.
    ...more info
  • Overall good but with reservations
    This is an overall satisfying production of La Boheme, including the cast, sets, camerawork, and musical direction. Yet I believe that the advantage of having a youthful cast for this opera has been much overplayed. True, that is a significant factor, but the music should always be paramount over considerations of appearance. Particularly, it seems to me that tenor David Hobson's rather thin voice is not very well suited to late 19th century verismo operas such as those of Puccini. Some reviewers here have stated that he usually has sung music from an earlier era, for which his voice is more suited. I have not heard him other than in this production, but that seems likely to me. However, Cheryl Barker is fine as Mimi. My favorite production of La Boheme is 1972 audio recording with Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti, with Von Karajan conducting, in which everything works splendidly. At any rate, I think that this Australian Opera production of La Boheme is a good one, just not my favorite. ...more info
  • In defence of The Australian Opera singers
    Some viewers seem to feel that the voices of the artists in general - and one artist in particular - are too good to be true, so I wish to point out that the video of "La Boh¨¨me" was recorded at a standard Sydney Opera House performance on February 25th 1993, and that the only 'miking' employed was what would be required to make such a recording, and was certainly not on the singers' persons! Unless they are performing in an outdoor situation - when they are reluctantly obliged to use microphones - the singers of The Australian Opera (or Opera Australia as it became in 1996) use no artificial assistance for their voices and wouldn't have a clue about 'lip-synching'- miming is for pop singers! I might add that the acoustics in the Opera Theatre are notoriously unhelpful to singers and orchestras alike, although this problem is to be addressed when upgrading is begun in 2005.
    It was acknowledged that Hobson's voice wasn't ideal for the role - the artist himself had reservations, since his fort¨¦ is the Mozart and Rossini operas - but he was chosen for Rodolfo because of his outstanding acting ability, and his artistry as a singer carried him through to great acclaim.Some months after the '93 Boh¨¨me season - and safely back in his own vocal territory - he turned in a series of superb performances as Orph¨¦e in Gluck's "Orph¨¦e et Eurydice" (happily also preserved on video), when one critic observed "There can be few operatic roles more exposed - Hobson shows himself to be a performer of extraordinary talent." Of course 'exposed' referred to the fact that this opera is a three-hander, with Orph¨¦e having the lion's share of the singing, but is somewhat appropriate here since the production required Hobson to be stripped to the waist for the greater part of the action - which would have made it a trifle difficult to conceal any form of amplification!!
    As well as possessing the few CDs and videos available of Hobson's work, I'm in the happy position of hearing him sing 'live' and can assure you that there is not (and never has been) anything 'tiny' about his voice - regardless of what he performs, to hear him singing in person is simply stunning and unforgettable! For the record, he is neither a Domingo nor a Heppner, but a comparatively rare 'haute-contre' tenor, whose tessitura seems limitless.
    Let the artist himself have the last word on the subject of his voice: During a press interview given in 2000, he freely admitted that he doesn't exactly sound like your average opera singer, and went on "I think I'm one of those performers who divides opinion. When I first started performing opera, you could hear me up the back of the theatre, even if I was singing with heavier voices. Back then I used to think 'Oh well, maybe I'm not really an opera singer' but people could always hear me and I wasn't having to try too hard."...more info
  • Hobson was right!
    A couple of years ago David Hobson remarked that he seemed to have the sort of (untypical) operatic voice which divides opinion, and added that from the beginning of his career he could always be heard at the back of the theatre - even when singing with heavier voices - without having to try too hard!
    In 1994, 18 months after the Boh¨¨me video was recorded, Hobson created the role of Danceny in the San Francisco Opera's world premiere production of Susa's "Dangerous Liaisons" singing with Fleming, Hampson and von Stade - not too bad for a 'tiny tenorino' voice!
    In Boh¨¨me, Hobson's performance as Rodolfo was unique, and although the artist himself would demur, "made" the production - which is not to take anything away from his Bohemian colleagues, particularly the Lemke brothers - who had stiff competition!
    Permit me to reiterate that, as someone who's heard Hobson sing 'live', and is eagerly looking forward to doing so again (several times, in fact) in coming months, I'm in a good position to comment on the true quality of his voice. He's a comparatively rare 'haute-contre' tenor with a seemingly limitless tessitura, and to hear him in action is a memorable experience, bringing to mind words like spine-tingling, stunning and awesome!...more info
  • Superb production!
    The Australian Opera production of La Boheme is superb viewing. The singing is moving and the vocal quality excellent - what fabulous singers! Baz Luhrmann created a magical production and every aspiring opera singer should watch how these singers combine the beauty of voice with the demands of acting. Excellent production - bravo!...more info
  • Hobson using microphone???
    I'd like to make a few comments about the review written by Mr. William Shields, who might have heard a lot of tenors "in person" but obviously hasn't heard Hobson singing in person in opera house. By using his logic, he'd better use his "trained ear" to hear Hobson singing, in person, in opera house, sans microphone, before making any comments about his voice. It is also very rude to make judgment by saying that Hobson is lip-synching to a recording without reliable evidence. Hobson, who has sung more than twenty leading opera roles in opera house (without being "swallowed up in an opera house and buried by an orchestra"), does what everybody else is doing in the business, which is singing without amplification.
    Many opera purists like to cling to voices that are familiar to their ears, which is understandable. But please be a little open-minded! To praise "great voice" of Hobson's doesn't mean to belittle others. Domingo is great, and so are many other tenors. But if tenors on the opera stage all sounded like Domingo, it'd be a very boring world, and opera wouldn't be very far from losing its appealing and vitality.

    Opera, as a comprehensive art of staging, singing, acting, orchestrating, isn't just about voices. That's why this production La Boheme deserves a very solid five-star....more info

  • As Puccini Intended
    Young, passionate performers with voices to match their passion and their acting - innovative staging but, most impressive to me - the pefect blend of acting and singing, bringing tears more than once. This version of La Boheme is outstanding!...more info
  • Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!
    The story has been set to 1950s Paris; the characters are portrayed with young faces; the songs are sung by fresh and splendid voices, this contemporary version of La Boh¨¨me completely blew me away. In this production, whether or not the singings are perfect takes second place in the face of vitality, passion, and intensity brought out by the brilliant young cast.

    Bravo, David Hobson for giving such a wonderful wonderful Rodolfo. This is the Rodolfo you'll be dreaming of. He is handsome, he is tall, and his tenor rings out with beauty, clarity, and youthfulness. To make things even better, he acts brilliantly. He gives life to every note he sings. When he belts out a high C, it's not a matter of showing off his tenor, but a real emotional outpouring. Seldom did I see vocalist acting with such depth and sincerity. He put himself so deep into the character that at the curtain calls he is still in tears.

    Brava, Cheryl Barker for conveying a tender and lovely Mimi. At some places Cheryl Barker's voice is not at her best in portraying Mimi, but her acting makes up the weakness, and in the end, she has become real Mimi. Her highlight is Mimi's death scene. Of all the times I have watched this scene, not a single time was I not in tears. She and David Hobson make a very good match, between them the chemistry is convincing, which makes their parting all the more heartbreaking.

    Bravo, Baz Luhrmann for the creativity and courage of blazing new trails for classical opera, and for the raw artistic design. Instead of making a clich¨¦ of yet another production of classical opera, he has turned it into a great piece of modern theater, in which the essence is embodied with realism and bestowed with novelties.

    Opera lovers, especially young opera lovers, this La Boh¨¨me is a must!...more info
  • This Boheme has great acting and magnificent voices
    La Boheme:
    What an unbelievable work by Puccini: surely the opening theme must be one of the greatest melodies of all time. It moves me near to tears: To think anyone could imagine music this beautiful and be able to write it down for others to hear for time eternal.

    The scene is Paris 1957. The 2 main actors are young and handsome: someone you could really believe to be falling in love. But the best parts are the acting qualities of the singers and what voices!!!!
    In particular, David Hobson as Rodolfo: his rendition of "che gelida manina" will make the hair on the back of the neck stand up and salute! When done well, it must be one of a handful of great tenor arias in all of opera.
    Cheryl Baker does an excellent job as Mimi. A great voice and her death scene in the end is very moving.

    This production done by the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra is a fine example of an excellent use of people and resources. Filmed before a live audience (really the only way great opera should be recorded) we actually see stagehands moving the sets, and yet they do not distract from the magic that is happening but instead are part of the drama unfolding before you.

    The only unrealistic part of the entire performance was the audience: Silent, except for an occasional cough, they sat on their hands if they were watching paint dry. Did they not see the unbelievable performances that were unfolding before them? I mean, is that not the purpose of live theatre??: Audience reaction to great performances: If I had been an actor on that stage I would have been so disappointed: wondering what we were doing wrong. Maybe the audience was instructed not to clap or shout until the end of a scene, but if that is the case why even bother to perform it live.

    A wonderful disc; I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it....more info
  • What is all the fuss about?
    This production of Boheme has prompted a great deal of ink to be spilled, much of it focused on how unique it is. To me it is very good, but hardly unique. It resembles a good production by one of the regional companies in the U.S. It has young singers who sing their roles most satisfactorily. The staging (scenery and action) is OK, but its primary distinction is that is does not distract from the music. Ditto the orchestra. I think that anyone who views this Boheme will enjoy and even love it, but to claim that it represents a breakthrough is overreaching.

    Much has been said about how this production uses young, photogenic players who more closely resemble what the protagonists are than the "typical" opera singer. This is a red herring. Yes, Cheryl Barker is a beautiful and sexy Mimi, but is she more compelling in the role than Teresa Stratas or Mirella Freni? Not likely. The same argument can be applied role-by-role to this DVD versus the others on the market. This fantasy of the typical opera as being peopled by old and fat singers who can't move on stage is simply not today's reality. Yes, this opera has compelling actors-singers; but guess what -- they all do!

    I've seen Boheme at the Met, at Covent Garden, at several U.S. regional opera houses, and on three DVDs. This one can stand unashamedly among the best. But it is not a new revelation, as some of its supporters seem to insist....more info

    I was first skeptical about watching this film. In fact, it sat in my room for 3 months before I actually got around to it. La Boheme is one of my favorite operas and so I judge it quite harshly. I am quite accustomed to the immortal Pavarotti singing Rudofo since that is the recording I have. But I figured what the Hell. And I'm glad I did. Because this is one AMAZING film. It is new and fresh. The singers are young and vibrant. I was iffy about the different time setting but I was pleasantly surprised. The set was gorgeous and amazing. Its mobility gave the production many more dimensions and brought a certain intimacy to the audience. The singers are not only beautiful people, but also have amazing voices and gifted actors. I was in tears the first time Mimi said good-bye to Rudofo and bawling by the end. The lighting, set, costumes, music, performers, and everything dovetail to make one of the most romantic and tragic stories new again. If you think you have seen every Boheme, see this. It is fabulous!...more info
  • La Boheme (David Hobson)
    I have been a fan of this opera since I purchased my first album of it as a pre-teen in the late 1960's. Since then I think I have gotten or have listened to almost every version.

    When I saw the David Hobson version from 1993, I fell to my knees!! I had never heard or seen a more stunning interpretation of Puccini's greatest!! I realized I had never seen "La Boheme" the way it was intended until then! David Hobson's heart felt and heart-wrenching performance brings me to tears each time! The entire cast is great, but it is David Hobson's magnificent presence that drives the production!!!

    David, "Bravo" a thousand times! THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME REALLY FEEL THIS WONDERFUL STORY FOR THE FIRST TIME!!! You are truly a great artist!!!

    ...more info
  • A good Boh¨¨me, but not for native speakers of Italian
    There are many novelties in this performance, but the staging is eccentric. Soprano Cheryl Barker stands out for her sympathetic singing, but her Italian pronunciation is marred by a strong English accent. Some singers have tattoos and smoke cigarettes on stage. Perhaps this is a heavy-handed reference to the fact that Puccini, a chain smoker, died of a heart attack after an operation for throat cancer. I was particularly disappointed by the final scene with the death of Mimi where Rodolfo, after discovering that Mimi has died, remains on a ladder rather than rushing to her side to sing his final lines. (Why do modern stage directors have this ridiculous fetish with ladders.) Despite its imperfections, the old Karajan,Freni,Raimondi,Panerai recording remains the most moving performance of La Boh¨¨me on DVD. To be honest, despite the popularity of this opera, a definitive performance of La Boh¨¨me on DVD still does not exist. Of course, there may be one I haven't seen. ...more info
  • An Operatic Delight!
    Both my wife and I love "La Boh¨¨me", but we are particularly delighted with the Baz Luhrmann rendition of it. We first saw it @ the Opera House in San Francisco, CA, several years ago and truly loved the performance. When we learned that there was a DVD of this performance, done in Australia, we bought it and delighted in reliving the original San Francisco experience. We definitely will view it again and again. A "must" for any "La Boh¨¨me" fan. ...more info
  • DIE YOUNG ....
    and leave a Great Corpse! Something along those lines ~ and this splendid revival of the perennial old warhorse does just that! Everyone's beautiful in this Australian showcase by Baz Luhrmann - even the orchestra. It's really a shameless tribute to the Glorious Technicolor musicals of MGM's heydays ~ very complete with vivd splashes of color [the purple bathrobe ... smokingjacket?], the black and plaid jacket, the vibrant yellow overcoat, etc. etc - and nobody, but nobody has a bad hair day here.

    Chemistry? Any more of that would incinerate the audience ~ never before has there been such a splendidly visual Rodolfo [the humble, God knows why? David Hobson! What a talent, perfect match of beauty and talent with just all the right nuances to make his Rodolfo eternally memorable - complete with the James Dean leather ensemble].

    Mimi? Cheryl Barker - utterly female, vulnerable, yet so vital ion her portrayal, and she does have a waist, and she can sing and she too is an uterly stunning beauty from down under!

    What else are the Aussies hiding? Versatile bunch - from "Puppetry of the Penis" to this classis? The rest speaks for itself ~ shamelessly romantic, this is also a 'live' performance - shot with audience present, and yes, the stage-hands do move the well-executed sets around - touch of Kabuki there.

    Only minor flaw? The sound-mix ... quite a lot of foot-clomping here and there.

    This one's a pre-curser to Mr. Baz 'Moulin Rouge' and actually better - economical, but the leads!

    Don't keep them hidden down there ~ we need much more of Mr. Hobson and Miss Barker ~ rare, beautiful and ultra sensitive talents - merging perfectly with the material - now that's rare today - ensemble perfection!

    Catherine Martin and Bill Marron provide a new look at standard set design - [the massive electric 'L'Amour' sign].

    It's just all positively 'drop dead gorgeousness' for all!...more info

  • Outstanding Australian Opera
    When I first saw this production on television, I was mesmerised by the stunning performance of the cast, but David Hobson in particular. Here is a Rudolph who sings his heart out to an exciting Mimi. Hobson's voice fills the auditorium with its richness, and power. He also is a talented actor, making one believe that he is very much in love with Mimi. The added advantage of subtitles makes watching all the more enjoyable. The scene is set in 1950's Paris, and the principals are all young enough to be playing a band of Bohemians with positive conviction. (Not overweight, not over aged). This DVD should be included in every opera lovers collection, and those who enjoy excellent classical singing....more info
  • A superior performance
    This performance is absolutely stunning! It conveys just what Puccini intended, life and love among the young non-conformists of Paris. While David Hobson is not Pavarotti, his voice is exccellent and he conveys the part much better than anyone else I have ever seen and heard in the role of Rodolfo. Christine Douglas is excellent as Mimi. Together, they are most convincing in their parts. The direction of Baz Luhmann is outstanding. He makes the singers become their namesakes. Highly recommended....more info