The Observer hailed it as ‘unshowy but radiant and affecting…Arden takes few liberties with the story yet tells it powerfully, which is the best you can ask.’ The orchestra was ‘sensuously conducted’ by Carlo Rizzi and the production is set by Stephen Brimson Lewis in a belle époque Paris Puccini might have known, with striking projection effects designed by Nina Dunn. Fiona Maddocks was also impressed with the casting of the young Bohemians, the ‘direct and pure-voiced’ soprano Anita Hartig, in her UK debut as Mimi, and Kate Valentine’s ‘extravagant, luscious Musetta’ – and was moved to tear’s by tenor Alex Vicens’ rendering of O soave fanciulla.
The review in the Birmingham Post forecasts that ‘WNO’s new ‘Bohème’ will be drenching hankies for years to come’, saying ‘everything in this production serves the drama; and when Puccini’s delirious love-songs collide with Arden’s shimmering, wintry stage-pictures, the result is enchanting’.
In the Telegraph Rupert Christiansen said: ‘Fresh, open and heartfelt, Annabel Arden’s lovely new production of La Bohème is marked by a filmic fluidity and simplicity. …There are no tricks, nothing seems faux or grafted. But Arden’s unassertive direction makes the joy and disillusion of these young people real and their tragedy immediate.’