Even before curtain-up, the gently falling snow was sparkling against the
black night sky of late-nineteenth century Paris. This is a production
which strives to balance ‘realism’ with romance: exquisite design details
create verisimilitude, while the visible mechanisms of theatre serve to
remind us that we are voyeurs. Occasionally, there are ‘slippages’, as when
the candles ‘go out’ in Act 1 but the interior set remains flooded in light
as Mimì and Rodolpho scrabble around ‘in the dark’ looking for her keys.
But, when the tables of the plush Café Momus push the
front-facing diners to the front of the stage, or the duets of Act 3 are
repeatedly directed ‘at us’ – through the fourth wall – a distance is
established which creates tenderness and poignancy.

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