REVIEW: La Bohème and Aida at Liverpool Empire Theatre

Review by Paige Edge

Director Ellen Kent brought a show-stopping weekend of opera and ballet to the Liverpool Empire Theatre this weekend, with her productions of Puccini’s La Bohème and Verdi’s Aida.

Often called the most romantic opera of all time, La Bohème promised love, laughter, heartbreak, and tragedy. The enchanting opera featured picturesque sets and a flurry of colourful and exquisite costumes which beautifully transformed the Empire Theatre into 19th century Paris, complete with Bohemian art of the period, a brass band, snow effects, and even a dog! This tale of Parisian love and loss featured many of its famous arias including ‘Your Tiny Hand is Frozen’, ‘They Call Me Mimi’ and ‘Musetta’s Waltz’.

Aida was no less spectacular with its breathtaking ballet performances, Poi fire spinners, Houdini the magnificent nine-year old Andalusian black stallion (AB Film Horses), and an act which saw cascades of shimmering gold confetti shower the stage (which was as stunning as it sounds!) This tragic story of war, jealousy and revenge at whose heart is the doomed love of the beautiful Ethiopian slave girl, Aida, and the Egyptian hero, Radames, was brought to life in a zesty and exciting three-hour opera and ballet.

The international sopranos Alyona Kistenyova (Mimi), and Olga Perrier (Musetta/Aida) delivered powerfully poignant and awe-inspiring solos which were, at times, haunting, as they told the story with such raw and heartfelt emotion – ensuring there was not a dry eye left in the house. Equally, the strength and length of the impressive notes held by Iurie Gisca (Marcello/Amonasro) and Zarui Vardanean (Amneris) were certainly unforgettable, echoing the palpable emotion felt both on and off stage.

However, the operatic performances would have been nowhere near as magnificent without the National Philharmonic of Moldova “Serghei Lunchevici”, which constantly engaged the audience by perfectly portraying the varying tones of the stories; from the light and playful sounds of the Bohemians throwing their landlord’s toupée around the stage, to the dark and brooding notes of the two heartbreaking finales.

Needless to say, it was a standing ovation from the audience for both nights as Ellen Kent successfully transformed Puccini’s classic Bohemian love story and Verdi’s grand Egyptian drama into productions that stayed with you long after the final curtain fell.

For more information on La Bohème and Aida, to find a tour date, or to book tickets, visit www.ellenkent.com.