Anthony is a wonderful British lyric tenor is making his company debut for the Iford Arts Festival singing Rodolfo in our production of La bohème
It is a rainy Monday morning, which seems a befitting time to rehearse and set the final scene for our production of La bohème. The bed is ready, the bonnet is standing by along with a few rehearsal props, which all seem appropriately futile for such an ending. In the first couple of weeks of rehearsals, we’ve zipped through the rest of the piece quite efficiently – staging some quite complex “business” in Acts 1 and 2 and also, deftly highlighting all the emotional struggles of Act 3. However, now we have come to the meat and bones of the story – how does one approach staging that?! Well….with great difficulty is the answer! However, there are thankfully a few things that can help. Firstly and most importantly, there’s Puccini’s music. He wrote in some musical “memories” from previous parts of the opera. Some music for Mimi to wake up to, music for Rodolfo and her to reminisce to, music for her to recall when she was truly happy with Rodolfo’s poetic ramblings in Act 1 etc.. Around these musical clues you can base some of the action. You also, of course, have the characters and their relationships. What kind of relationship do Rodolfo and Mimi have? What kind of people are they? Then of course you have the director’s vision, which can be vastly different from production to production.
What I’ve found most difficult in this specific production of La bohème, is facing up to the fact that Rodolfo isn’t a very nice person! It is quite anathema to me as a person (or I’d like to think so at least!). I’ve always known that he was a self-centred, emotionally immature character however, in this specific production, the director has shed light on a whole new level of reflection for me. Indeed, once I got to grips with this side of things, I found that it made Mimi’s story even more tragic and fatalistic – so much so that eventually it made her final scene easier to imagine as it became her design. It became the death she would’ve wanted and not the death that was the result of jealousy and a mere chain of hopeless dithering by Rodolfo and his mates. Her death is of course a result of all these things but in this specific production, one has to ask what Mimi really wants when she knocks on that door for the very first time? What does she really want from Rodolfo? Can he give her the life / death she wants / envisages? Do any of the characters go on to learn from Mimi’s story?
We tried many things in this gruelling yet delicate rehearsal and at the end, we had done it! It was an extremely tiring rehearsal for all – I for one, didn’t have any tears left in me (it’s tiring crying all the time!). What also helped a great deal was cakes brought in by various members of the cast! So, the opera is now complete…what we need now is an orchestra! Next stop, is the sitzprobe where the cast first sing the opera with the backing of an orchestra, which is always one of the most exciting days in the rehearsal schedule. Today was a time to die…tomorrow, it’s time to sing!