La Boheme

Puccini’s ever popular La Boheme is startlingly reimagined in Arcadian Opera’s first ever production for the Roxborough Theatre at Stowe. The struggling bohemians of fin de siècle Paris are transported to the fringes of the Bloomsbury group in 1930s London. Sung in English, with orchestral accompaniment, the vibrant score relating the tale of the passionate and yet complex love of Rodolfo and his Mimi is excitingly brought to new life by the principal cast of young professional singers with a talented local chorus.

La Boheme poster2


Act I

finds Rodolfo and Marcello shivering in their artists’ garret. They take desperate measures to heat the place, to the astonishment of Colline who is already perplexed by the closure of pawnshops on Christmas Eve. Schaunard, the musician, has scored a well-paid gig and brings supplies and money – only for the landlord, Benoit, to call for his arrears. Benoit is no match for these creative spirits, and soon London on Christmas Eve is calling, and an excursion is prescribed. Rodolfo the poet stays behind for a few minutes; and as if she’d been waiting for the opportunity the girl upstairs knocks on the door. Does he blow out her candle? Does she?

Act II

In our version at least, the opening is Cockaigne at its noisiest and generally beafiest. Families, street traders and cheeky children have braved the cold and gathered around the Cafe Momus. The rich parade their liquidity, the poor soak it up. Our Bloomsbury Bohemians welcome Mimi into their hermetic club, and all goes swimmingly until Marcello’s former love appears with her wretched sugar-daddy in tow. The men all want her and the women, secretly, want to be her. Will she dump Alcindoro, her sugar-daddy, and go back to the poor painter? Is this an opera? Who cares? – As the magnificent Household Cavalry ride past for the Changing of the Guard.

There is an interval….


Reality, as the working classes struggle to reverse entropy and chaos. At least their lives have a clarity denied to our better-educated protagonists. A year has passed. Mimi seeks Marcello’s help in allaying Rodolfo’s increasing jealousy. She is clearly ill. She overhears Rodolfo confiding in Marcello his despair at not being able to provide for Mimi in her sickness, and suddenly she knows her fate. She is reunited with Rodolfo for a while at least, and their bittersweet ecstasy is counterpointed by the shallow squabbling of Marcello and Musetta.

Act IV

Act IV finds Rodolfo and Marcello once again reluctant bachelors. Unsurprisingly Mimi has abandoned Rodolfo’s bedsit for a more comfortable berth, and who knows where Musetta has ended up? The men’s sad reveries are broken by the arrival of Schaunard with bread rolls and Colline with a herring! Riches! Ecstasy mounts as the unworldly Bohemians pile fantasy on extravagant fantasy, until …

… Musetta arrives; with Mimi, whom she has found in the street outside. Mimi is confronting the reality no art can conquer. Musetta’s searing honesty is revealed and even Colline is moved to generosity. As Mimi slips heartbreakingly away, Puccini, a master at the height of his extraordinary power, takes command of our inner selves and releases emotions only opera can expose.

The Cast in Order of Appearance

Marcello, an unappreciated artist – Wesley Biggs

Rodolfo, an aspiring poet – Gabriel Courvoisier

Colline, an unpublished philosopher – Tobias Odenwald

Schaunard, a striving musician – Jacob Bettinelli

Benoit, a slum landlord – Patrick Marshall

Mimi, a skilled embroiderer – Natasha Day

Musetta, a good-time girl – Sara Whichelow

Alcindoro, a gentleman of means – Christopher Marlow

Parpigniol, an itinerant toy seller – Louis Orozco

PC Brunetti, a policeman on the beat – Nick Adams

The Chorus

Mr Algernon Prior – Philip Abbott

PC Brunetti off duty – Nick Adams

Mrs Connie Warren – Gillian Bartram

Mrs Mabel Boddie – Karen Cockerill

Miss Petunia Bloom – Evana Cook

Mrs Virginia Creeper – Sarah Cox

Mrs Maud Rivell – Sue Dix

Mrs Ivy League – Lesley Gray

Mr Malory Monument – Nick Heritage

Mr Harry Greengrow – George Higgins

Miss Ariadne Troy – Lynn Homer

Mrs Lucia Mapp – Ilana Jacobs

Mr Bertie Rooster – Richard Keeping

Mrs Frances Herring – Sue Mackrell

Mr Albert Herring – Roger Mackrell

Mr Archie Benoit – Paddy Marshall

Mr Theodore de Gasgoine – Graham Mitchell

Mr Alf Parpignol – Mr Luis Orozco

The Hon Daisy Hawser – Sally Ross

Miss Inger Stepp – Rie Saito

Mr Joseph Spokeshave – Doug Scott

Mrs Iris Spokeshave – Jill Scott

Mr Rupert Golightly – Graham Scrase

The Children’s Chorus

Lily Aspinall,

Alexandros Alexandridis,

Savannah Bacon,

Sophie Chan,

Niamh Collins,

Lucy Craney,

Oliver Gauci,

Morwenna Hills,

Bethany Kitchen,

Eva McEvoy,

Bella Rose,

Amelia Sefton,

Harriet Swain,

Lily-Rose Tyrell,

Emily Willsher

The Arcadian Actors

Nick Heritage

Cathy Ann Field

Patrick Field

Jamie Harvey

Robbie Harvey

Caroline Planas

Arya Marshall

Sebastian Marshall