Full marks to English National Opera for ingenuity! The company is about to stage Drive & Live – a World Premiere performance of Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème as an open-air drive-in experience at London’s Alexandra Palace – proof yet again of what can be achieved when creativity meets a challenge.
This 90-minute version of one of the world’s best-loved operas, set – on this occasion – in the modern day bohemia of London, is staged by British Director P J Harris, who has won high critical acclaim for productions such as Vespers of 1610 for Garsington Opera, Salome for Opera North, and Riders to the Sea/Cupboard Love and The Cunning Little Vixen for Byre Opera.
The role of Mimi is sung by Award-winning Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw – “The outstanding soprano of her generation” according to the Telegraph – alternating in the role with soprano Nardus Williams. A graduate of Houston Grand Opera Studio, Ms Romaniw has previously appeared as Mimi for ENO, and also sung Cio-Cio San in Madam Butterfly and Mary Kelly in Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel for the company. An accomplished concert performer, she also made her BBC Proms debut in 2019 singing Rachmaninov’s The Bells with BBCNOW.
British soprano Nardus Williams has been praised by Opera Today for her “superbly controlled, sensuous soprano which has sheen and shimmer as well as real focus of tone”. She is currently an ENO Harewood Artist, and most recently appeared for the company as Micaëla in Carmen.
The role of Rodolfo is shared by tenors David Butt Philip and David Junghoon Kim. David Butt Philip has previously appeared in this role for ENO, described by the Guardian as “an impressively complete performance”, noting his “warm, easy-sounding tenor voice”. Other ENO performances include Don José in Carmen, the Prince in Rusalka, Pinkerton in Madam Butterfly, and he has also appeared for the company in Britten’s War Requiem.
Korean tenor David Junghoon Kim has sung the role of Rodolfo in productions of La bohème in both Zurich and Stuttgart. He has previously appeared for ENO as Rodolfo in Luisa Miller, a performance described by the Arts Desk as “nuanced, subtle in piano, searingly intense at full pelt, making an absolute dream of the opera’s best-known aria, Quando le sere al placido”.
Also in the cast are baritone Roderick Williams, alternating with Matthew Durkan as Marcello, sopranos Soraya Mafi and Sydney Mancasola alternating as Musetta, bass William Thomas shares the role of Colline with Jonathan Lemalu, baritones Benson Wilson and Ross Ramgobin appear alternately as Schaunard, basses Trevor Eliot Bowes and Paul Sheehan alternate in the role of Benoit, and bass-baritone John Savournin and bass Barnaby Rea share the role of Alcindoro.
With the cast and crew following the government’s latest guidelines on social distancing, the performers will be on a raised and covered stage, with large screens to the side, ensuring that the performance can be seen by all audience members. High quality stereo sound will be delivered both outside and inside your car.
When booking, you’ll choose your ticket based on the size of your vehicle so that capacity can be managed – categories and ticket prices are available on the ENO website.
If you don’t have a car, ENO is partnering with Uber, so that you can book an Uber Box static car, and also pre-book an Uber ride to and from Alexandra Palace. Alternately, ENO has also partnered with Lime to offer free cycle hire.
For information on all options, visit the ENO website.
English National Opera presents Puccini’s La bohème from 19th to 27th September in Drive & Live – a unique drive-in production at Alexandra Palace, North London. For more information visit the ENO website.