We saw La Bohème at La Monnaie this evening. The Director, Andreas Homoki, has stripped the stage down and literally back to the black brick walls, leaving most of the space to the singing and the music. The orchestra, conducted by Carlo Rizzi, seemed effortlessly good. Tonight, Mimi was played by Anita Hartig and Rodolfo by Marius Brenciu. I am no expert but it seemed to me that they frequently sung through, rather than above, the orchestra, with their voices, which were very good, occasionally breaking through with high volume, like sudden sunshine through low cloud. The singer who stood out for me was the Greek baritone, Aris Argiris, playing Marcello. He sung and acted with authority. He, Lauri Vasar (playing the philosopher, Schaunard) and Giovanni Battista Parodi (playing the musician, Colline) gave excellent impressions of the Bohemian lifestyle and of later success and prosperity. For the rest, dare I say it, I am not a great fan of this opera as a story, great classic though it may be. I think a big part of the problem was Puccini’s decision to drop an all-important act that explains Rodolfo’s otherwise puzzlingly exaggerated jealousy. As it is, we get references to a Viscount we never see and the best explanations for Rodolfo’s desertion of his great love is either that he’s fed up with Mimi’s flirting (improbable) or that he knows she is ill and doesn’t want her to stay in his cold and draughty garret (improbable) or that he knows she’s dying and is afraid of that (improbable). Stick the Viscount back in and it would all make sense. The applause levels at the end confirmed that Argiris’s Marcello and Vasar’s philosopher had impressed the most.