Israeli Opera La boheme By Giacomo Puccini The Opera House Tel Aviv March 22 Franco Zeffirelli's revived direction and sets in Puccini's tear-jerker La boheme were as fresh and straightforwardly communicative as they were 12 years ago, when this production was first performed by the Israeli Opera - despite, or perhaps because of Zeffirelli's inclination to conservative realism and impressive crowd scenes. These expertly captured the ambience of 19th century Paris's Latin Quarter. The lack of sophistication was a blessing in this production that would amount to failure if one did not need a bed sheet instead of a handkerchief in its latter half. The casting was done conscientiously, with the roles assigned suitably to their respective singers, all of whom were vocally well-endowed. Formidably outstanding was Anya Matanovic, whose rich soprano credibly accomplished Musetta's transformation from a femme fatale to a genuinely compassionate and devoted friend. Adina Aron displayed a bright, expressive soprano, though sometimes more assertive and forceful on the high notes than one expects of this frail, innocent and pneumonic character. Among the male roles, Scott Piper, as Rodolfo, was an appealing lyric tenor who developed from an initial matter-of-factness in his first love aria toward moving and impassioned intensity when, deplorably, it was already too late. Vladimir Braun's warm bass-baritone in Colline's farewell aria, though short, was one of the performance's highlights. Conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson, the Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion sounded energetic, vibrant, and intensely conveyed the work's drama and emotions.