For admirers of Giacomo Puccini and Franco Zeffirelli, this has been a very good fall. The Metropolitan Opera began a run of Turandot last month; the company began a run of La bohème last night. Both operas are by Puccini, as you know, and the Met has productions by Zeffirelli for the two of them.

Some people don’t like those productions (or those operas, or Puccini, for that matter). That’s okay: no one is obligated to go.

Anita Hartig, a Romanian soprano, was very, very good in the co-starring role of Mimì last night. She has a beautiful voice, well placed. It has various colors, including darkish ones. It is loud (without effort). It has a mezzo-y lower register.

Also, Ms. Hartig is musical. You could hear this, for example, in the shape of her arias.

How about her high C at the end of “O soave fanciulla”? It was wayward—first flat, then sharp (as the singer tried to adjust)—but this was of little import.

Of true importance is that she sang with poignancy—without trying to. What I mean is, she did not really act (and certainly did not overact). She simply let the music, the words, and the story speak for themselves. They are enough.

I have heard many, many Mimìs more famous than Anita Hartig. I don’t remember, frankly, hearing a better one.

Making her Met debut was the conductor, Eun-sun Kim, from Seoul. She is the music director of the San Francisco Opera. Appearing in the pit, she bowed to the audience, then turned to face the orchestra, with a wonderful swirling ponytail.

How do you want the beginning of La bohème to go? It should burble, scamper, dance, and amuse. It should reflect youthful high spirits—and bonhomie, among the bohemians. Note, too, that it need not rush.

In my view, the opening last night was cold and hard—cold, hard, tight, and rushed. There was not sufficient breathing or enjoyment. I have little to complain about Maestra Kim thereafter.

She conducted with understanding, alertness, and command—a command that was not smothering. Act II, she handled deftly, and this is not an easy act to handle. By the way, what is Act II—the café scene—but a scherzo? A scherzo movement? (With a waltz and a march thrown in.)

Our tenor was Charles Castronovo, from Southern California. He has a suave name, and sings the same way. He makes a fitting Rodolfo. As I have picked at his soprano’s high C, I might as well pick at his: it was effortful—a little strangled—but there (and “there” is the main thing).

In any event, it was a pleasure to experience Mr. Castronovo’s voice and his commitment to the singing.

Our Marcello? The Polish baritone Artur Ruciński, who was poised, correct, and burnished. The tenor-baritone duet “In un coupé?” was unusually stylish and heartfelt. This duet can fall flat on its face. From Castronovo and Ruciński—and Kim and the Met orchestra—it was its rightful self.

The other baritone in the opera, Schaunard, does not have as much to do as Marcello. But Alexander Birch Elliott, another American, made an impression in his part. He, too, has a beautiful voice. (This was a night of very good voices.) Googling around, I found this, from a review of a Met Pearl Fishers I wrote in 2018:

Scheduled to sing the baritone role of Zurga was Mariusz Kwiecień, the Polish star. But, indisposed, he was replaced by Alexander Birch Elliott, an American. A star is born? Something like that. Elliott sang confidently and handsomely.

Colline last night was Nicholas Brownlee, a bass-baritone from Alabama—not to be confused with Lawrence Brownlee, the tenor (bel canto) from Ohio. He sang and acted commendably, and, yes, has another of those beautiful voices.

Our mezzo, our Musetta, was Federica Lombardi. About her Musetta, there was a touch of Lucy—Lucille Ball—or more than a touch. Was she over the top? That depends on your taste, or your sense of “top.” Regardless, Ms. Lombardi was fun (before matters turned grave).

She was the only Italian in the cast, and I was looking forward to hearing the language out of her mouth. I must say, however, that I had trouble making out the words. Her or me? (I can hear her vote, “Him!”)

This was a very good and very moving Bohème. What a good piece, by the way—a masterpiece. Not just full of melody (which is no small thing) but ingeniously constructed. I always say that there are two classes of people who know that Puccini is great: cognoscenti—musicians, chiefly—and the masses. Middlebrows are taught to sneer or sniff at Puccini, somehow. It doesn’t touch him, though.

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