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Purely Puccini A successful “Bohème,” a cover show for “Il Trittico”

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Marcelo Álvarez as Luigi un Puccini’s “Il Tabarro.”

BY DAVID SHENGOLD saw the Met’s lavish 1982 Franco Zeffirelli production of “La Bohème” for the 18th time on December 3. If not an epochal event, it was a very good repertory performance. Of prime importance: New Yorkborn James Gaffigan, in his first Met conducting gig, proved a real asset, with a well-textured, alert reading throughout. I expect we’ll hear more of him locally. The cast was uniformly strong without any one member being so outstanding as to “grab” the evening — as happened, for example, in a 2004 outing in which the star-power of Anna Netrebko and Peter Mattei, as Musetta and Marcello, wiped everyone else off the stage. The Bohemians all looked ageappropriate (in this work that matters). I first saw Ailyn Pérez as Mimi in her conservatory days at the Academy of Vocal Arts in 2005. Even then, she was an appealing, vulnerable figure with a warm, appropriate sound. She has gained immeasurably in pitch accuracy and is now an international art-

I | January 03 - January 16, 2019

ist, with some very fine achievements, including last season’s Met Thais. Yet security on top forte notes remains inconsistent, and she’s developed dodges (diminuendi, rehearsal pianissimi) around less-than-comfortable moments. Though she had a lot to offer as Mimi, I had the sense that maybe she’s been an over-attentive pupil of Renata Scotto’s legacy: sometimes the constant artfulness in phrasing and dynamics gets in the way of straightforward vocal character projection. Plus, she had to cope with a flood of cell phone beeps — some emergency alert pertaining to Rochester! — during the crucial “Sono andate?” Perez did display real chemistry in convincing interplay with her AVA colleague Michael Fabiano, whose Rodolfo I first encountered 10 years ago with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He’s well-voiced for the part. Fabiano — an admirably out gay leading tenor with strong opinions — can sometimes power-sing his way through entire evenings, but on this occasion he explored

➤ PUCCINI, continued on p.28

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