‘is it true? whatever you do with La Boheme always ends up the same’ hmmm…
A lot is written in Puccini music, and it makes it easier for the audience and actors when it’s simply honest and not overwhelmed dramatically. I feel that a lot of times opera is capturing the moment, looking at photographs remembering and seeing yourself in different times of your life.
In La Boheme the characters are remembering the turning points of their lives. Mimi came into everyone’s lives and changed it forever. That moment in their lives when Mimi died. When everything was a dream and an illusion, which was broken.
Mimi is immortal, she is the Catalyst, she causes a change. Her death is simbolic. Her story is a story of a great need to be loved, desperate search for it through Rodolfo and finally realising: ‘ Qui amor sempre con te ‘ almost saying to herself as well as to Rodolfo that love is always there, inside of you, it is free ,not needy or desperate, but content and she finds her freedom.
Mimi has youthful charm and innocence about her. She finds Rodolfo very funny. It’s the humour that makes her trust him.
Mimi is real, shy, and everything about her is natural. She falls in love with him for real, though this is not a long relationship. They meet in Christmas, they separate in May, she dies in June.
She is brave because she can’t change anything, she is dying. Her love is desperately needy, clingy afraid of loneliness and to be abandoned. She tries desperately to find love in many ways, she even tries to copy Musetta, but unsuccessfully.
I found Mimi’s role incredibly short, for the emotional depth of her intensity and almost not enough time to show her full story. But then trusting Puccini’s music everything made perfect sense.
I decided to create a clear contrast between first two and last two acts.
In the beginning she is innocent, hopeful and happy. In act two she is so exited, surrounded by all these men, alive and on high in the middle of attention, like a child. She shows signs of illness, but mostly she is alive. Her illness is forgotten, as adrenaline kicks so she doesn’t cough. A contrast to what to follow.
They meet at a desperate point of their lives, both curiously falling in love looking into each others eyes, holding hands. Simple things that matter.
He is not a good poet, he is jealous maybe because he doesn’t see her innocence, though he falls in love with it. Perhaps he doesn’t see her at all.
In act 3 she is desperate, like a scared caged animal, hurt, in pain but too weak to let go still clingy. She is scared of being abandoned. Marcello is her last hope to influence Rodolfo to stay with her, because she needs him, his closeness.
She overhears that Rodolfo wants to leave her while he knows that she is dying. This makes her angry. Addio senza rancor…she expresses surprise and pain : How can you leave me when i am dying ? Yet in the duet they still cling to each other.
I found singing Mimi an incredibly healing experience. I grew with her together an an artist and a woman.
My grandmother died two weeks before the beginning of rehearsals and I had a terrible cough, remains of a flu I caught traveling to bury her. But unlike my grandmother, my Mimi died free and happy, loving herself and everyone around her. ‘Mimi doesn’t died of a cold..’ said our wonderful director, so I went on line to look how did people die of consumption.
Being on tour builds yoir stamina, it is demanding and can be tough, and I am grateful for all experiences and for sharing singing my Mimi with most wonderful,, caring, fun and passionate collegues. And to James Conway his deep analytical understanding of the human soul ,passion and humour in guiding me mindfully and wisely to create my very real and human Mimi.
My son came to see the entire show, sitting on the edge of the chair. His words moved me deeply.
‘I liked the whole opera, especially when Rodolfo and Marcello burnt the papers into small pieces. When the children sang, the puppets, the snow, when the men danced and fought with animals on their heads. The story of these people made me think how lucky we all are. They were so poor and unhealthy and we have everything we want, food and computers. They lived in the darkness with candles!!! And mummy, I don’t want you to die at the end, I was glad when you came alive and smiled so I could clap.’