Opening night of this year’s Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour – Puccini’s La Bohème– narrowly missed the rain, but there’s a 100 per cent chance of snow in director Andy Morton’s made to measure new production of the ever-popular verismo opera, which moves the action from the Paris of the 1840s to that of the 1968 student revolt.

Chorus members in La Bohème. Photograph © Prudence Upton

Though this is his directorial debut with Opera Australia, Morton has worked on the last five Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour productions, and his familiarity with the format comes across in this in a Bohèmethat – hand in hand with Dan Potra’s set – is perhaps one of the most effective uses of the space we’ve seen. While Morton’s Bohèmedoesn’t draw the Sydney skyline into the concept in quite the same way Àlex Ollé’s Madama Butterfly did in 2014, the director nonetheless finds a beautiful balance between intimacy and grandeur on the frost-edged stage, in a neatly unified concept that incorporates animation (video designer Marco Devetak), fireworks and even live snow twinkling down onto performers and audience alike, while staying loyal to...