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This historic production of La Bohéme comes from Vienna in 1963 and marked an important milestone in the careers of Mirella Freni and the designer, Franco Zeffirelli. The German television company Unitel would later make a film version with variations in the cast. It is too bad that this cast was not represented in the film as it sports Hilde Güden as an opulent and earthy Musetta and Giuseppe Taddei in luxury casting as Schaunard (and probably the greatest Schaunard any of us can hope to hear.) Mirella Freni, still in her twenties, radiates innocence in her opening scenes and then reveals a hidden sensuality in "Si, mi chiamano Mimì." Gianni Raimondi is an impassioned Rodolfo. Herbert von Karajan's approach to Puccini was idiomatic to say the least. Many of Puccini's meticulous directions he ignores and at times he tries to reinvent the wheel. However, it is clear that he has both a deep understanding of both the musical and dramatic riches of this score and he imbues the proceedings with the right kind of restrained pathos that makes this opera eternally moving for even the most cynical. The sound is excellent.
Mirella Freni sings scenes from La Bohème and Manon