Sir Jonathan Miller's La bohème is back at the Coliseum once again. Taking its inspiration from the interwar Paris of Brassaï and Cartier-Bresson, Isabella Bywater's sets are efficiently attractive, though it is contingent on each revival cast to bring the performance to life. English National Opera's latest revival cast brings freshness and a fine attention to detail under revival director Crispin Lord, bringing to the fore some of Miller's more inspired touches from landlord Benoit's badgering wife to the tipsy sailors stumbling out of the tavern. Lord also maintains tight control over Act 2's festivities, deftly focusing the audience's attention between the street vendors, military bands and café diners as needed. Amanda Holden's translation, though, needs an update, coming across more as Gilbert and Sullivan than rowdy twenty-somethings getting drunk in Paris.

Sinéad Campbell Wallace (Mimì)
© Genevieve Girling

Despite the central love story, the heart of any Bohème lies in the sense of camaraderie between the bohemians. The standout among the cast was William Thomas as Colline, whose sonorous bass captured the audience's attention from his very first entrance. His final act aria, effortlessly projected and luxuriously smooth, promises an exciting career. Together with Benson Wilson's affable Schaunard and Charles Rice's charismatic Marcello, I've rarely seen a group of singers better capture the essence of youth. Rice's Marcello spars nicely with Louise Alder's Musetta, who vocalises her way gloriously through her showpiece aria, although she isn't outrageously extrovert enough to steal the show. She's more convincing in the final act, quietly heartbreaking in her interactions with Rodolfo and Marcello. Mention must be made for Simon Butteriss, who has stolen the show as Benoît and Alcindoro in practically every revival of Miller's production.

Charles Rice (Marcello), David Junghoon Kim (Rodolfo) and William Thomas (Colline)
© Genevieve Girling

But it's the lead couple who makes or breaks the evening, and despite some fine moments both Sinéad Campbell-Wallace's Mimì and David Junghoon Kim's Rodolfo seemed miscast. Kim is that rare find – a young Italianate tenor with squillo to burn in his clarion upper register. Lower down, however, his voice lost focus and sounded oddly muted, rendering his words unintelligible.

David Junghoon Kim (Rodolfo) and Sinéad Campbell Wallace (Mimì)
© Genevieve Girling

Making her ENO debut, Campbell-Wallace's soprano was undoubtedly impressive, and it was thrilling to hear a voice of such heft and fullness in the role. The basic instrument, though, was marginally too forceful for Miller's vulnerable Mimì, and it comes as no surprise that Campbell-Wallace is swiftly moving her career towards Wagner and Strauss. It's high time ENO revived its Janáček cycle, because they've seemingly found an ideal proponent for those soprano roles. More than any issues of vocal suitability, Kim and Campbell-Wallace displayed little chemistry, meaning one was never particularly invested in their relationship. No matter how many times I see Bohème the final scene never fails to elicit a tear... but this time, I was left cold.

Louise Alder (Musetta) and ENO Chrous
© Genevieve Girling

If there's a reason to see this revival, it's for conductor Ben Glassberg, who drew out a truly glorious performance from the ENO Orchestra. He's a natural fit for this repertoire, with just the right amount of rubato to avoid sounding sentimental. I've rarely heard the orchestra sound this luxuriant, undoubtedly helped by the fact that the lead couple could sail over the deceptively heavy orchestration with ease. Let's hope ENO brings him back.