La Bohème at Circus Maximus

According to a well-established tradition, summer productions of Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera are performed in open spaces, usually the Baths of Caracalla. In recent years, the productions have been increasingly moved to the Circus Maximus, which provides a more suggestive atmosphere. In this context, there were high expectations for this new production of La Bohème, which premiered on the 30th of July under the baton of Jordi Bernàcer and with Davide Livermore as stage director.

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MIMÌ: Vittoria Yeo
RODOLFO: Piero Pretti
MARCELLO: Luca Micheletti
SCHAUNARD: Simone Del Savio
COLLINE: Gabriele Sagona
MUSETTA: Sara Blanch
BENOÎT AND ALCINDORO: Domenico Colaianni
PARPIGNOL: Sergio Petruzzella
A CUSTOMS SERGEANT: Alessandro Fabbri
A PEDDLER: Giordano Massaro

Teatro dell’Opera di Roma Orchestra and Chorus

Conductor: Jordi Bernàcer
Director: Davide Livermore

Open spaces are not the optimal choice for music, and Circus Maximus is no exception. The sound was perfectly “natural” thanks to a minimal, appropriate amplification, and the balance between voice and orchestra was very good as well. The pianissimi, however, were not very well audible, while the fortissimi didn’t have the strong impact that you expect in a theater. Most importantly, the music was sometimes disturbed by external noise, such as police sirens, the roar of motorcycles, church bells, and so on. Nevertheless, the performance was fully enjoyable, thanks to a very good cast and a staging respectful of the libretto.

A major contribution to the success of this edition of La Bohème undoubtedly came from the Korean soprano Vittoria Yeo, whose performance was really impressive. Her voice can sustain both high volume and pianissimo with no apparent effort, resulting in a touching interpretation of Mimì. What a pity that some of her memorable moments were disturbed by external noise.

La Bohème
La boheme._Sagona, Del Savio, Pretti, Micheletti. Circo Massimo 2021. ©Fabrizio Sansoni. Teatro dell'Opera di Roma.

Tenor Piero Pretti was more than effective in his role as Rodolfo, giving a convincing performance both as singer and as actor. Marcello was played by Luca Micheletti, who was well suited to the role, as expected of a singer-actor-director. Simone Del Savio and Gabriele Sagona played Schaunard and Colline respectively, giving the main cast solid support and adding a touch of humor to the acting.
A special mention should be given to soprano Sara Blanch who performed an amazing Musetta. The other singers and the chorus can look back on a job well done.

La Bohème
La boheme. Vittoria Yeo (Mimi), Piero Pretti (Rodolfo). Circo Massimo 2021. ©Fabrizio Sansoni. Teatro dell'Opera di Roma.

Jordi Bernàcer directed the orchestra of Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera with exactly the right tempi, giving an excellent overall performance. Puccini’s score was treated with great respect for details, especially in the wind section. The balance between voices and orchestra was exemplary. Less impressive were some intimate passages, mostly due to the “softened” acoustics.

La Bohème
La boheme. Vittoria Yeo (Mimi), Piero Pretti (Rodolfo). Circo Massimo 2021. ©Fabrizio Sansoni. Teatro dell'Opera di Roma.

Probably most interesting about this La Bohème was Davide Livermore’s stage direction. He presented a version set in 1896, the year of the premiere. According to Livermore, “the answer to the question on how I can represent this opera today, is just by following Puccini…” How could one not agree? So, “just following Puccini” resulted in the absence of disturbing elements; there was no out-of-place acting, there was respect for the libretto. The stage images had been reduced to their essentials, containing minimal props (just a bench in the third act), surrounded by a number of big panels where some famous late-19th-century paintings were projected.

La Bohème
Opera al Circo Massimo. ©Kageyama

This staging was a reprise of the edition in Caracalla (2014) by the same director. The most spectacular scene was clearly in the second act, with the crowded streets and the various actions that take place. A full set of circus characters pass by, including a fire eater, a man on stilts, a bear, and a group of four ballerinas in classic costumes, as if they had just stepped out of a Degas painting. The action was a bit chaotic, but not excessive. In conclusion, this was a fine performance of La Bohème at the Circus Maximus, and the performers were rewarded with well-deserved, loud and boisterous applause.

Tiziano Virgili
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Tiziano Virgili


Physicist, professor at Salerno’s University. Opera fan for more than fifty years, with special interest for Russian, Czech, and in general less performed operas. Strongly believes that Great Art doesn’t need updates, and that operas work perfectly just as they were originally conceived.

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