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Brilliant Bohème

27 JUN 08 VIVIEN SCHWEITZER

There is no shortage of recordings of "La Bohème," but Robert Spano, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and a worthy cast of soloists offer another fine portrayal of the young bohemians in Puccini: La Bohème, a live recording made at Atlanta's Woodruff Arts Center.

This opera suffered a lukewarm reception at its premiere in 1896 under the baton of a young Toscanini. "What has pushed Puccini on this deplorable road to Bohème," sneered one critic. Of course, attitudes have changed in the century since its debut and it is now established as a favorite in the repertoire.

In the Spano recording, the tenor Marcus Haddock is an ardent Rodolfo, singing with passion in "Che gelida manina." His Mimi is the soprano Norah Amsellem, who sings with a bright, clear voice and portrays the vulnerability of her doomed character, particularly in the Act IV garret scene. Haddock and Amsellem partner to fine effect for the duo "O soave fanciulla." The soprano Georgia Jarman is effective as Musetta, singing a flirtatious "Quando me'n vo."

The strong cast also includes the bass Denis Sedov as Colline, the baritone Christopher Schaldenbrand as Schaunard and the baritone Fabio Capitanucci as Marcello, completing the quartet of bohemians. Kevin Glavin is effective as Benoit and Alcindoro. Spano conducts a lithe, well-paced and sprightly performance.