Welsh National Opera, La Boheme. Bristol Hippodrome.

Renowned opera company, something Italian, an old and steep theatre. I’ve debated with myself over whether I could count opera as a gig or not, and popular opinion (aka a totally unscientific poll on twitter) concluded that I could. It’s live music and singing. That counts.

Ages ago I mentioned that I’d never been to an opera but had always quite fancied it to my boyfriend, who booked us tickets to see La Boheme as it was one of the operas he’d never seen and the WNO were performing it at the Hippodrome somewhere approaching my 40th. We both sort of forgot about it for a while and have subsequently gone our separate ways. However, as we remain friends, and I have 40 gigs to get through, we agreed to go anyhow.

The seats were up in the sky and I always forget how vertigo inducing and precarious the upper circle feels. Although from the front row the view was pretty good. The orchestra was so large they had taken out the front rows of the stalls to accommodate them, so from a purely musical perspective I knew this would be good. The staging was superb, the lighting and angles employed drew you in perfectly. And the cast were all excellent.

I did struggle at first to get to grips with watching the action, trying to figure out what was going on and trying to understand Italian as well as read the handy English subtitles displayed above the stage all at once. For most of the first act I wasn’t really sure what was going on. Most of it seemed unashamedly romantic (if a little creepy) but I’m really not going to ask what the monkey clown/transvestite prostitutes were all about as I’m not sure that knowing would actually make much difference! I enjoyed the chaos created when different characters sang at the same time and could sense an element of humour as well as tragedy underpinning the whole thing.

By the second half I was more in the swing of taking in all the clues at once to put together a picture of doomed romance (if you don’t know the story it’s not really spoiling it to say there is death. It’s opera). Essentially its a bit like watching Shakespeare, you won’t get every word but you’ll get enough to understand the story and I’m sure the more opera I see/hear, the more it will make sense.

I will happily go to more opera on the strength of this as I enjoyed the experience very much. Live orchestral music with operatic voices is pretty spine tingling stuff. Tears may have been shed, although how much of that was the circumstances of watching it and how much was the music I cannot say.

10 down. 30 to go.


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