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Reviews of La Bohème, Irish National Opera 2023

I want to be immediately up front about this. Irish National Opera’s latest production of Puccini’s La Bohème at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre should be seen by everybody who has an interest in opera in Ireland. Or maybe, more correctly, those who have not seen any opera at all in Ireland. It is by far the best production of Puccini’s masterpiece I have ever witnessed at home, or even on video, film or television. As well as being incredibly beautiful visually, it had that real hallmark of a special production – it radiated confidence from start to finish. On an opening night, that is really something special to behold. And, despite such a sad tale, even joyous... The production values were immensely impressive and so director Orpha Phelan and her team deserve credit...This was a night to remember for the full-house audience.

★★★★★ Dick O'Riordan, Business Post

How to have something new to say in one of the most celebrated operas of all time? This was the challenge facing director Orpha Phelan in Irish National Opera's new production of La bohème. By setting the opera in Paris in the 1930s, assembling a stellar cast of singers and with no little help from the realistic sets, costumes and the super-responsive orchestra, she succeeded in creating an emotionally-charged, masterful production of this classic tear-jerker... Phelan’s conception of the work is faithful, yet inventive, stressing both the amusing and tragic elements as they come. A magnificent Bohème.

★★★★★ Andrew Larkin,

Phelan takes us not to the 19th century, but to the interwar years in the French capital. La Bohème sweeps us along on a wave of emotion. Irish National Opera have created a worthy production of Puccini's great work. 

★★★★ Alan O'Riordan, Irish Examiner


In Irish National Opera’s production of La Bohème, finally taking to the stage in all its spectacular splendour, magic informs every moment of Orpha Phelan’s breathtaking direction... under Phelan's exceptional direction even the silence rings. This is a production defined, in no small measure, by Phelan. 

Opera presents additional challenges to directing for theatre, leaving many directors leaning into staid tableaux and looking out of their depth. What makes INO’s La Bohème so thrilling is the sweep and richness of movement married to the stirring quality of its singing, both housed in the most gorgeous staging. Phelan’s refreshingly exciting compositions a whirlwind of expressive energy that leave you struggling to tear your eyes away to read the surtitles. Even though you know how it all ends, Phelan has you hoping against hope it might yet be otherwise whilst teasing out oft forgotten themes... A tragic tale that’s an absolute joy, Phelan delivers a tour-de-force.

★★★★★ Chris O'Rourke,

Puccini's opera is full of antics and Orpha Phelan gets them all right, from joyous mayhem to emotional darkness.

★★★★ Michael Dungan, The Irish Times

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