Review: English Touring Opera’s productions of La Boheme and The Siege of Calais at Sheffield Lyceum

English Touring Opera certainly did justice to La Boheme and the sizable audience really appreciated it.

This production was of a high musical standard and sung in Italian with a beautiful match between words and music.

The Bohemians: Grant Doyle as Marcello, David Butt Philip as Rodolfo, Matthew Stiff as Colline and Njabulo Madlala as Schaunard, all sang and acted well. Ilona Dominich portrayed the ill-fated heroine Mimi convincingly and Sky Ingram was an energetic and captivating Musetta.

This production highlighted the contrast between the men, relishing the Bohemian life, and the women whose lives were conveyed in poignant music underpinned by the sadness of grinding poverty.

Tuberculosis haunts the plot, its next victim already marked; while Mimi is dying, Schaunard coughs into his blood-stained handkerchief.

The sets were slightly odd. The real star of the show was Puccini’s beautiful music, ably performed.

The company’s production of The Siege of Calais was outstanding.

The cast excelled in demonstrating all Donizetti’s skill in weaving together voices and music. The chorus was powerful and sensitive and had wonderful music to sing.

Craig Smith sang Eustacio. We were warned before the show that he had been ill, but we would never have known from his strong and sensitive performance. All the soloists sang well, but Catherine Carby, as Aurelio will stay in my memory and I would go a long way to hear her again.

Throughout the performance the quality of the acting conveyed the experience of a city under siege.

In this production an aria and an ensemble have been moved within the opera. This improves the dramatic flow and, in the words of the director, James Conway “musically it is seamless”.

The set was simple and just right for this tragic story. This production really worked.

It is great that ETO have brought this rarely performed opera to us and such a shame that the audience was much smaller than for the better known La Boheme.