Gale Edwards’s production of La Bohème is back for an extended summer season – sixteen performances no less. This production has been filling theatres since its creation in 2011. It may not run for as long as Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 extravaganza, still an annual fixture at the Metropolitan Opera, but it probably has another good decade to go. Revived here by Liesel Badorrek, it works considerably better in the tiny Joan Sutherland Theatre than it did in the State Theatre in 2018; the latter is too palatial for bohemian confinement and privations.
Edwards’s translation of the action to 1930s Berlin remains gratuitous and unconvincing, especially in the Café Momus ‘scene’ (the score calls the acts ‘pictures’ in a nod to the title of Henri Mürger’s Scènes de la vie de bohème). The static, notional Nazis atop the Café Momus in Act II serve little purpose, and the lewd, automatic gestures of the extras, doubtless de rigueur in 2011, now seem very dated.