Puccini’s La Bohème is a mini masterpiece. It’s concise and relatively short by operatic standards, but also fulfils the criteria of some gorgeous arias and ensembles that in themselves are a marvel. This is the last hurrah for one of the Royal Opera House’s best loved productions: John Copley’s vision dating back to 1974. It’s a long run and, as with the popular La Traviata revival currently playing at ROH, audiences will get the chance to see a variety of singers performing in the different combinations of casts.

Perhaps more than any other opera, you come to see Boheme to hear beautiful music and singing. Obviously we rely on seeing a beautiful production in turn, but by the end of Act I it is obvious whether or not the casting and the revival is a success. Both Calleja and Netrebko are superstars of the operatic world and it is an exciting opportunity to see both at work. The role of Rodolfo is a gift and although Calleja’s youthful and bright tenor voice is beautiful, it lacks the volume needed at times and doesn’t quite match up to the size and presence of Netrebko’s voice. I think he is better suited to lighter bel canto repertoire, as I know his Alfredo to be brilliant.

It’s very difficult to live up to the hype, especially if you are Anna Netrebko. But as Mimi she appears perfectly at ease and gives a very composed and nuanced performance. Neither of these leads give master classes in acting – the direction for the lovers is simple and perhaps a little bland and dated – but instead they allow the music to soar. In addition, there is a show-stealing performance by comprimario master Ryland Davies as Alcindoro, but the whole cast and chorus should receive praise for accomplished performances.

There are some really special moments in this production – the snow in Act III in particular – but overall I am left feeling that I am watching something from the operatic archives. Pavarotti graced the stage in this production back in the 70s and, beautiful and traditional though it may be, exciting and contemporary it is not. Dan Ettinger’s conducting however is clear and brings the music alive. With him at the helm and with some gorgeous singing, there is enough to satisfy in this, the final revival of this classic production. Look out for Domingo conducting the final performance in July.

La Bohème is playing at the Royal Opera House until 16 July. For more information and tickets, see the Royal Opera House website. Photo by Bill Cooper.