On my recent rain-soaked visit to Vilnius one of the highlights of the week was to take in a performance of Puccinis La Boheme at the Lietuvos Nacionalinis Operos ir Baleto Teatras with my friend and colleague Renata.
I last attended when they had been performing Madam Butterfly a few years ago, and on that occasion had been “blown away” by the sets used, visually they were absolutely stunning. So whilst I had high expectations of this production I did not feel it would match Butterfly.
How wrong I was. The set design by Cristina Mazzavillani Muti (from Italy) ranged from simply beautiful, to at times, breathtaking, but at no time did it detract from the performance on stage. To say that it was a feast for the eyes is simply an understatement.
As for the performance, it was a very professional from all concerned, Angelo Fiore (tenor) pored his heart and soul in to the role of Rudolfas and handled the demanding aria “Che gelada marina” with aplomb, but lets face it, after you have heard Pavarotti sing this, everyone else pales in comparison. Fiores voice is more of a light lyrical tenor and at times he sounded a little strained on the top notes, but this is a very minor criticism.
For me the real star of the show was Viktorija Miškūnaitė who, I understand was making her debut in the role of Mimi. Born in Šiauliai, Lithuania, Viktorija Miškūnaitė received one of the most prestigious State Theatre and Culture awards THE GOLDEN CROSS OF STAGE 2016 and was declared BEST OPERA SINGER OF 2015 by the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre (LNOBT).
From a rather tentative start in the role of Mimi, her voice sounding a little underpowered, she gained in confidence as the performance progressed and demonstrated what a powerful and emotional voice she has. I came away from the theatre thinking “possibly I have just seen a performance by a future star of the opera.”
I have to credit the orchestra with some exceptional playing, the strings in particular were very impressive, and superbly conducted by Julius Geniušas. Acknowledgement also for the young children who performed in the opera and sang their hearts out.
As a final comment it was interesting to see the makeup of the audience. It was a full house with literally standing room only and the age range was from children under ten years of age to “oldies” like myself. It was pleasing to see that culture is taken seriously in Lithuania and that even young children are exposed to both classical music and opera.