PUCCINI set his La Bohéme, as the title suggests, in the then exotic world of the Bohemian enclave of mid-nineteenth century Paris.

To its contemporary audience this was an insight into a world where grinding poverty blended with periods of high gaiety; a ruinous place for some, yet a life of beauty and tragedy that drew the young of the professional classes as moths to the flame.

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Certainly the ruined beauty of Grange Park, the part restored stately home near Winchester is an apt setting for Puccini’s great work.

Far more than shabby chic, Grange Park provides a true blending of high art and calamitous catastrophe.

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The house, part restored amid glorious grounds and gardens, is transformed each summer for a season of opera performances.

La Bohéme opened this week.

The story is a simple one of four struggling artists – the poet, the painter, the musician and the philosopher – who although they can seldom scrape together enough funds to eat and almost never to heat their sparse apartment, find solace in drink and love.

For the Rodolpho love stumbles through the dark in the form of Mimi. Gianluca Terranova plays the poet, Susana Gaspar the ill-fated Mimi, their rapid falling in love turning into an embrace.

Terranova is stunning in the role, his duets with Gaspar, equally as strong, tremendous in the intimate setting.

Kelebogile Besong plays the flirting Musetta, Brett Polegato her long-suffering partner, the painter Marcello.

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Puccini’s Musetta is the kind of warning to young Parisian men of good family to avoid that their parents in his audiences would have fretted over.

Strong of will and strong of arm, she taunts Marcello with her careless lavishing of her affections on others.

As the pair dance their way around each other their steps mirror Rodolpho and Mimi’s deeper and more tragic waltz.

Nicholas Crawley plays Colline the philosopher, Quirin de Lang the musician Schaunard who together complete the band of friends.

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Extremely strong performances ensure that the wit and interplay between the four artists emerges through Puccini’s beautiful music.

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stephen Barlow rightly deserved to be included in the audience’s foot-stomping ovation at curtain down.

Directed by Stephen Medcalf with simple yet imaginative settings created by Jamie Vartan, La Boheme here is a glimpse into a world Puccini hoped would capture the mysterious culture that was both fascinating and frightening the ruling classes of Europe.

It was from Bohemian enclaves that not just music and art emerged but radical and threatening ideas.

The still-part ruined Grange Park, as is now customary each season, has been turned into its own work of art.

Designs by Alexander Creswell hang throughout the house which remains open after performances complete with champagne bar for guests to wander its stunning decay.

Giant crystal chandeliers are set against Creswell’s superb works that include for the first time a stunning ceiling painting in watercolours hung above the restored grand staircase.

After some performances there is music and dancing for the, hopefully, warm summer nights.

Picnics on the lawn or in the Long Marquee; dinner in the house itself, intimate groups gathered in ornate Raj-style private pavilions where late suppers are enjoyed by candlelight.

Puccini’s characters would no doubt have frowned, but that’s art for you, even if you don’t have to suffer for it.

The season at Grange Park runs until July 18.

Performances include Fiddler on the Roof with Bryn Terfel, Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Puccini’s La Bohéme.

Very few tickets may still be available.