Puccini: La Bohème - Freni, Pavarotti, Panerai, Washington, Holm; Karajan. Salzburg, 1975


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Let’s face it, it is easy to get “Boheme fatigue”. It is such a cash cow for opera companies, and they know that they can throw it up with very little rehearsal and with up-and-coming (i.e. inexpensive) singers that it can be easy to forget how great it is. Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti are just the pair to remind one of what an effective piece this is in the right hands. Freni for me is near definitive as Mimì. Her Mimì is understated yet sensual, and she is able find the right balance in conveying the pathos of the story without letting the proceedings become overly maudlin. Pavarotti was always at his best when paired with his childhood friend. Her presence forced him to offer more than his legendary tenor and he does just that here investing body and soul into Rodolfo. Rolando Panerai is a sturdy Marcello and Renate Holm’s Musetta is pretty but lacks charisma. Herbert von Karajan evokes cinematic colors from the orchestra but struggles with a chorus that doesn’t seem to know how to follow a conductor. The recording is in good stereo sound although there is some hiss.

OD 11285-2