Opera Australia ringing in 2019 with a revival of Gale Edwards’ production of Puccini’s La Bohèmeis not what you would call an exciting choice. However, even the most seasoned, sceptical operagoer would find plenty to love in this latest run, thanks to a strong cast of unusual conviction and youthful energy.

Samuel Dundas, Taras Berezhansky, Shane Lowrencev, Joyce El-Khoury and Ivan Magrì. Photo © Keith Saunders

But first a brief word about the production itself, of which much ink has already been spilled. While the transplant to 1930s Berlin is visually ravishing, it remains vague on the impetus behind this choice, the political ramifications of the time largely untapped. See John Bell’s production of Toscafor OA for a much stronger example of an update that feels both organic and earnt. Rather, the longevity of Edwards’ staging flows from its fine understanding of Puccini’s characters and their motivations, crafted with care and bearing many small touches that speak volumes. When Musetta and Mimì first meet in the hubbub of Café Momus, Musetta warmly takes the other’s hands in her own and admires her new pink hat, Mimì shyly smiling back at this outsized,...