“Fucking Daily Mail” says Marcello as he, Rodolfo, Colline and Schaunard huddle together around a table to keep each other warm. It’s an empty room of hope with a lampshade, bookshelf and table to seem like home, except there’s no heat. The men need each other to keep their spirits high when the economy isn’t great in their pocket. Magnetic Opera teleports the frostiness of Puccini’s much-celebrated opera, La bohème to Lauriston Halls at Edinburgh Fringe, and it has all the imagination, talent and stage trickery to bring the Parisian 1830s to modern-day poverty.
Director Thomas Henderson’s production encompasses 360 degrees of talent from soloists, lighting design by Tom Turner to the orchestra of Magnetic Opera. Calum Fraser draws out the luster of Puccini’s score with Magnetic Opera’s nine musicians, who perform with grace and fine detail. For Lauriston Halls, their musical touch is more than enough to capture Puccini’s music mastery.
Francesca Matta and Ian McBain perform La bohème –a tale of love and lost in poor and cold conditions – as the lovers, Mimì and Rodolfo. Unexpected, Mimì knocks at Rodolfo’s door to ask for some light and they instantly fall in love, but love is torn apart when Mimì dies from the cold. This sentimental opera is performed heroically and touchingly by Magnetic Opera. All young singers charm and beguile the audience with amazing vocal flair and tenacity.
McBain’s sings one of the most famous and romantic opera arias “What a cold little hand” with beauty and lyricism while Matta performs ‘Yes, they call me Mimì’ with sweetness and tremendous vocal power. James Schouten and Catriona Hewitson provide animated interpretations as macho Marcello and temptress Musetta – the parallel couple who swear and shout at each other even if they adore one another.
After enduring Musetta’s flirting with every man at Café Momas, singing ‘When I go along’, Schouten’s Marcello caves in and sings delightfully with her and the gang including Jerome Knox, Sam Carl, Christopher Head who perform as Schaunard, Colline, Benoît and Alcindoro.
Perhaps La bohème is the perfect type of opera to perform at the fringe. Think about it. Fringe is about performing artistic creativity, storytelling and presenting talent and expertise with very little budget, without the prettiness and polish of a grand establishment. Puccini encapsulated the aftermath of the revolution in France with artists struggling to make ends meet, and, as we know, through independent festivals like Edinburgh Fringe talent and passion for the arts is worth sharing to everyone, on any type of stage.
They are performing a new production of The Medium at London’s Barons Court Theatre. Click here for more information.