Puccini: La bohéme at Royal Opera House | Live Review

Francis Muzzu
Friday, February 9, 2024

'I will stick my neck out and say that soprano Yaritza Véliz will become a star'

Leonardo Caimi (Rodolfo), Yaritza Véliz (Mimì) in La bohème at ROH
Leonardo Caimi (Rodolfo), Yaritza Véliz (Mimì) in La bohème at ROH

Camilla Greenwell

It is always a risk to predict a major career for a young singer: there are so many variables to factor in and nothing can be taken for granted. But I will stick my neck out and say that soprano Yaritza Véliz will become a star. In just four years she has progressed from the Jette Parker Programme – the Royal Opera’s high level apprenticeship – to a lead role with the company, and in just her first few minutes onstage one can see why. Firstly, she has presence – especially that old-fashioned commodity, charm. She has acting ability, and delineated Mimì’s progression from young flirt to her desperate death with care, drawing the audience in.

Yaritza Véliz (Mimì) in La bohème | Credit: Camilla Greenwell

Bohème can be victim of its own success at times, the audience so busy enjoying tunes they recognise and relishing the shenanigans of Act II’s café that that the emotions and relationships can get lost in the welter. But Véliz remained a calm focus. And then there is her voice, a sumptuous lyric soprano of some amplitude, evenly produced, well-knit from bottom to a confident high C, rich in colours, balanced of phrase and with beautifully judged portamenti. One small example: as Mimì lays dying in Act IV she quotes herself from the first act, singing ‘Mi chiamano Mimì’ twice. The first time, Véliz radiated happiness, the second, despair. A simple touch, not overdone, but so telling. She conveys emotions through personality and voice, and it is a stunning assumption, soon to be seen in other major houses. Do seize any chance to see her.

'Leonardo Caimi matches her for intensity, his tenor fresh and buoyant'

Of course, Véliz doesn’t achieve this alone. Her Rodolfo, Leonardo Caimi, matches her for intensity, his tenor fresh and buoyant if slightly lacking the thrust at the very top that wows an audience. He has the ability to sound natural in his singing, a great fusion of personality and vocal ability. He has great partners in crime, with Gihoon Kim a luxurious Marcello (another voice that’s going places), Josef Jeongmeen Ahn making much of relatively little as Schaunard, and William Thomas touchingly dignified as Colline. Add Andrea Carroll’s feisty Musetta to the mix and it was a good night singers. Carroll certainly stamps her personality during both her extrovert and intuitive moments and sings with a warm yet bright tone. Keri-Lynn Wilson conducts with a minimum of fuss, providing clean but decisive hand directions and keeping a very sharp eye on her soloists and chorus, feeding them every line (I had a clear side view of her work). Richard Jones’s production lasts well, here deftly revived by Simon Iorio. It is not the most inventive show, but has narrative clarity and tugs at the heartstrings. What looked to be just another revival proved a strong one.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - Four stars

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