La Bohème overlooking Paris


For Maestro Evan Rogister – a conductor who is much in demand at opera houses in the USA and Europe – this is the fourth production of La Bohème in his professional career, but the first one that he was working on as the music director (shortly before his debut at the Bolshoi, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera with Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte).

Maestro Evan Rogister.

While the Bolshoi needs to introduce Maestro Rogister to the Russian audience, the works of Jean-Romain Vesperini are already familiar to us. It was possible to see them at the Bolshoi and at the Maly Theatre, as this director is equally successful in both opera and drama.

An essential thing to this staging is that Jean-Romain is a Frenchman. As is well known, the action of this Italian opera takes place in Paris. Mr. Vesperini definitely has enough space to breathe there! Indeed, he notes that he has drawn inspiration from Baz Luhrmann’s box office success Moulin Rouge (2001), a musical combining exaggerated features of opera and Bollywood shows.

Prior to the premiere we’ve interviewed the stage director Jean-Romain Vesperini.

The events of La Bohème will be transferred a few decades later, to the end of the XIX century…
— Yes, when it comes to La Bohème, the first association that arises in my mind is the epoch of Puccini. In Paris, that was a fantastic time – the time of Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, and the Moulin Rouge. We wish to recreate this fascinating atmosphere, but to avoid thorough reconstruction. Inspired by the famous Impressionist paintings, we try to grasp certain color effects and use them in the design of our performance. Sometimes we resort to the technical tools of late modernism (set design by Bruno de Lavenère, costume design by Cédric Tirado, ed.). We draw Paris of Pissarro and Lautrec with their paints, adding some modern shades, especially in acting. Movements, gestures – they are very modern.

What do you find so fascinating about Baz Luhrmann’s film Moulin Rouge?
— I see an excellent esthetic approach in this film. Luhrmann literally breathed modern energy into the costumes and scenery of late 19th century. I’m also curious to put ourselves into that historical epoch and then show it to today's audience. Ultimately, my goal is to give our audience a dream.

Should acting be more theatric or more natural?
— This depends on the genre. Of course, in this opera we are dealing with drama, but there are a lot of comic episodes in it. A number of comic episodes (almost the entire second act, ed.) should be staged in a certain rhythm, which means that we are already out of the reality. At the rehearsals I often tell the artists about the animated cartoons: a cat runs after a mouse, runs five minutes in the air-and ... suddenly falls (Ah!). We try to create similar reactions, so that the audience was surprised and laughed. More realistic acting is required in the tragic episodes, for example, the final of the opera, as it deals with real feelings. When Mimi dies — this scene lasts for a while —a silver lining, as I call it, appears in the music. At that scene I suggested the singer to go up the stairs. Of course, this is not realistic: a sick person cannot handle such a rise. But this movement adds poetry, even pathos in the performance, that's touching. However, I do not believe in pure realism on stage. I think theatre is a place for imagination.

Damiana Mizzi (Musetta), Dinara Alieva (Mimi), Davide Giusti (Rodolfo), Aluda Todua (Marcello),
Jean-Romain Vesperini (Stage Director), Daphné Mauger (Assistant to Director).

Incredible costumes were made for this performance, not only for the performers of the main roles, but also for the choir...
— I love working with choir. Especially, at the Bolshoi. The Bolshoi’s Choir is highly skilled and open to new experiences. I also adore children’s choir. In opera performances the choir is often seen as a homogeneous mass. But I want each choir artist to be involved in the production, to be a certain character with his own emotions and costume.

How many costumes were made for this performance?
— About two hundred for all participants (they are soloists, choir, children’s choir, extras ensemble, orchestra members performing on the stage). And a poodle! For sure, it won’t wear a costume; still a special dog collar was made for it.

Interview by Maria Petrova

The Bolshoi Opera soloists and guest artists will take part in the premiere series of the performances.

The first run of shows will be held July 24 – 29.