Puccini’s La Bohème is not just still going strong, it’s pretty near indestructible. I’ve seen it set everywhere from early 19th-century Paris (as Puccini intended) to France under the Nazis (which might have surprised him) to outer space (which likely found him turning in his grave) and yet it always seems to work.

La Boheme

British director Richard Jones can make bold choices (see his recent insightful La Clemenza di Tito at Covent Garden, its setting perhaps inspired by the Bosnian War). Here he makes it easy on the eye, shifting the action to fin de siècle Paris with only slightly abstracted sets and colourful period costumes by Stewart Lang. If there’s a point Jones wants to make, other than just to explore the opera’s famous love stories, it’s a sharpening of the divide between “La vie bohème” and the straightjacketed bourgeois society that hems it in. A few duff bits of blocking apart, it’s an admirably clear reading of the drama aided and abetted by Jonathan Haswell’s...