Month-long opera festival will culminate with grand performance of ‘La Boheme’
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 23, 2001
Wednesday, May 23, 2001
The Natchez Democrat
Music and drama are only two of the elements making Giacomo
Puccini’s opera &uot;La Boheme&uot; a favorite among performers
as well as opera lovers, members of the Natchez Opera Festival
&uot;The characters are real life people rather than fantasy
characters,&uot; said Cristina Castaldi, who will portray Mimi
in the production beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday at Margaret Martin
Performing Arts Center. &uot;Mimi is a real person dying from
a real disease. Even if the audience has never seen the opera
before, they will know these characters.&uot;
Puccini’s &uot;La Boheme&uot; is a tragic opera in four acts,
first performed in Turin, Italy, in 1896. The bohemians in the
opera are four poor but carefree young men who live together in
Paris about 1830.
They are Rodolfo, a poet; Marcello, a painter; Schaunard, a
musician; and Colline, a philosopher. Mimi, a frail young girl
in poor health, is their neighbor. She and Rodolfo fall in love.
Although the story ends tragically, the opera has many humorous
and sentimental moments. It also has some of Puccini’s most beloved
One of the most famous melodies is &uot;Musetta’s Waltz,&uot;
a highlight of the role of Musetta, said Jane Ohmes, who will
portray the fun-loving young woman in the Natchez production.
&uot;She’s showing her stuff at that point,&uot; Ohmes said.
Manuel Acosta, who is making his American opera debut, has
played the role of Rodolfo, the poet, in Mexico, his home country.
The role has great appeal for him, he said, because of the character’s
romantic nature. &uot;Rodolfo talks much about love; he can play
it; he can cry it,&uot; Acosta said. And, most important, he
The aria and duet in Act I are among his favorite musical moments.
The most special dramatic moment comes at the end of the opera,
when he simply calls out the name of his love, &uot;Mimi, Mimi.&uot;
For Castaldi, the role of Mimi is one she always knew she would
play as she prepared to become an opera singer. &uot;I knew this
would be a staple. I loved the Italian literature, especially
Puccini, but Mimi always had an appeal for me because I think
in many ways I am like Mimi,&uot; she said.
The young woman is typical of many women, she said – living
alone, searching for love, a simple seamstress who enjoys embroidering
&uot;She is typical in tending not to show what she really
is feeling,&uot; Castaldi said. &uot;And even when she’s dying,
she is worrying about how everyone else is doing.&uot;
A challenge of the role is to draw the audience along in the
story without letting them know of the tragic end, she said. &uot;You
can’t cry with the audience. They need to see the struggle of
the character from the moment you step out onto the stage.&uot;
Ohmes said the complex characters present the audience with
a story on many different levels. &uot;You have to bring the
audience into the story,&uot; she said. &uot;Every character
goes through an evolution, an arc – a beginning, middle and end.&uot;
Musetta, like Mimi, is a character the audience finds familiar.
&uot;She wants the finer things of life but can’t have them because
she can’t afford them. And when she does get them, she finds that
she is not as happy as she thought she would be,&uot; Ohmes said.
For Musetta, the character changes throughout the opera are
remarkable. &uot;She slowly sheds her finery. She realizes that
she has a chance to be with people who love her. You see her at
her most superficial and then at the end she offers her earrings
to sell as a way to pay for Mimi’s care.&uot;
Every role is a challenge, Castaldi said. What’s more, the
cast must work together intimately to make the story believable.
&uot;Our other colleagues are very, very good singers and actors
and especially do the comedic moments well, Acosta said. Other
players are Peter Lindskoog, Marcello; Walter DuMelle, Colline;
Carlos Archuleta, Schaunard; Richard Cassell, Benoit and Alcindoro;
Mark Lubas, Parpignol; and Joshua Parrillo, customs guard.
The singer-actors have been inspired by each other even though
they have not worked together before. Furthermore, they have been
excited by the community response to the festival, they said.
&uot;We have been warmly welcomed by the community,&uot;
Ohmes said. &uot;And we’re up there on the stage because of the
people in the audience. When we can touch them in some way, we
know we’ve done what we’re supposed to do.&uot;