Photo: Robert Workman

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Jonathan Miller’s directorial debut for the ENO, it’s staging a revival of one of his most celebrated shows: Puccini’s La Bohème.

Miller switched things up a bit for his production: costumes suggest the 1930s rather than the 1830s chosen by Puccini. However, the drama sticks to the composer’s intended setting: Paris in winter, and more specifically a draughty attic in the Left Bank — home to four impoverished creatives.

La Bohème is both a love story and a slice of social commentary. Poet Rodolfo and seamstress Mimi are thrown together because of their dire housing situation and it is poverty that brings on their heart-breaking end. The intimacy of the spartan garret is contrasted with the hustle and bustle of the street scene below where children, pedlars and prostitutes all mix. The ingenious revolving set designed by Isabella Bywater manages to reveal both the private and public space, putting the lovers’ predicaments within the context of a chaotic urban underclass.

Welsh Soprano Natalya Romaniw makes her ENO debut as Mimi. She casts an assured figure who commands our attention as she falls in love, then crumbles emotionally and physically as disease takes hold. Nadine Benjamin steals the show as a comically extrovert Musetta.

Humour is also added by Simon Butteriss who doubles as Benoit, the foolish landlord and Alcindoro, Musetta’s elderly suitor. The translation by Amanda Holden includes witty rhyming couplets that draw laughter from the audience, making this a festive treat despite the bleak tale.

La Bohème, London Coliseum, St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4ES, £12-£125, 28 November-22 February 2019

from Londonist