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Wednesday | Apr 08, 2009

Ross Benoliel, Schaunard in La Boheme

This is my fifth production of La Bohème and I’m really excited to be here in Omaha working with such a great cast. For any opera novices out there, this is probably THE most accessible opera and you will have an amazing experience. Today we begin rehearsals at the Orpheum Theater. It’s going to be great to see the house where we are performing and get on the stage for the first time.

The character I am playing is Schaunard, the musician. He is the bread winner in this group of struggling artists. When he makes his entrance in the first act he has a very interesting story to tell his friends.

A little side note: Schaunard can be a tricky role in terms of the stage “business”. I make my entrance with bread, wine, cigars, gold coins, newspapers, and all types of food. In the period of 3 or 4 minutes, I explain how I came to get all of that stuff – and get rid of it so that I can also focus on singing in time with Maestro France and the orchestra!

Well, the story about how I got all this stuff is that I was hired by this rich old English man who wanted me to play my violin to kill his parrot!! Unbelievable, right? Well the violin playing didn’t work…I had to do something else, but you are going to have to see the show to see how it all turned out.

You will be sorry if you miss this performance, because you will hear how great it was from everyone who comes! Get your tickets today before it’s sold out!

Wednesday | Apr 08, 2009

David Ward, Benoit & Alcindoro in La Boheme

Greetings from the character bass, or basso-buffo! I sing character bass roles, or funny, comic roles in so many different operas like the Sacristan in Tosca and Osmin in Abduction. They all of which have one thing in common – they are all funny men who resolve or capitulate via comedy. I usually have left the theater by the time people start dying in Bohème or Tosca. I am sort of like the Dick Van Dyke or Red Skelton of opera. In fact, I grew up watching Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, Lucille Ball, Dick and Red, and I think they heavily influenced my sense of comedy and how one is funny. Comedy comes naturally to me, so it is a good fit.

I play the dual roles of Benoit and Alcindoro. Benoit is the cranky landlord in the first act who arrives demanding the overdue rent. Alcindoro is the wealthy sugar-daddy woo-ing Musetta with a night on the town in the second act, until her buddies, Rodolfo, Schaunard and Colline conspire with her to get Marcello and her back together again. I am left with nothing but the check!

It is my first time in Omaha and I am enjoying it greatly. I spent my day today schmoozing with stage management while my colleagues worked. Did you know that every opera has at least two stage managers to keep things running smoothly?

Kate Williams is our Stage Manager and her Assistant Stage Manager is RaShelle Bradley – both of Omaha. They give us our cues, make sure our props are ready to go on stage and answer questions about the production. They make sure the coffee pot is brewing, offer us advice on where to get a manicure or a good sandwich, and they become our friends. I worked with RaShelle at Opera New Jersey in February on a production of Die Fledermaus – she helped me do a costume change backstage and was always ready with a smile and a hug. In fact, I start each rehearsal day here with a hug from RaShelle. The stage management folks are our link to the outside world! Best of all, when they aren’t busy, and you are bored in the wings, they are great sources of back stage gossip. Trust me on that one.

Stage managers keep lots of lists: props, costume pieces, entrance cues, and timings, which make our work so much easier. In Bohème, I have to deal with plates, bottles, glasses, flowers, packages, and the Stage Management team knows where every prop is, who has it now, who had it last and who gets it next. Life savers! Only the truly organized can be stage managers. And a good stage manager can make or break a show. This Bohème will definitely be MADE!

I hope you’ll join us at the Orpheum – this production is just lovely and the singers are wonderful. At our first sing-through with Maestro France, Rodolfo’s aria had me in tears because it was so beautiful and heart-felt. And I have heard this aria sung hundreds of times. I can say the rest of the cast makes the same impact on me. There won’t be a dry eye in the house come the end of the opera.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Friday | Apr 03, 2009

Maureen McKay – Musetta in La Boheme

I have already been charmed by the friendly hospitality of the Omaha-nians (coined after our La Bohème bohè-mians) and the “Old Market District”, in particular. There are some fantastic “antique boutiques” in Omaha! I found a post-card from 1925 depicting the New York City skyline. I am going to have it enlarged for my apartment in Long Island. What a find!

We are in full-swing rehearsal mode at Opera Omaha. This week the cast began working with the talented adult and children opera chorus ensembles – the impressive music coming from these Omaha-nians is brilliant! What is in the water here, or should I say… steak?

This La bohème is special to me for several reasons. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to make my debut as Musetta under Garnett Bruce’s direction and Hal France’s baton – the sky is the limit for artistic possibilities and fulfilling music-making with this artistic team. They are enthusiastically guiding me through the process of exploring this role for the first time. Garnett cleverly directed my first Pamina in Die Zauberflöte last season at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. It is also a treat to work with old friends and meet new ones- the cast is stellar. Musetta’s love interest, Marcello, will be played by my friend Jeremy Kelly. Jeremy was my first Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro during our young artist days at Seattle Opera. We are going to have a blast creating another operatic dynamic duo. I am pleased to have the opportunity to sing my first Musetta in Italian – its original language – before I shift gears and perform it again in German this fall in my debut with the Komische Oper Berlin. Also, I am honored that I will have a dear aunt and uncle in the audience in two weeks along with some other family members!

Opera Omaha’s La Bohème promises to be a special event- it will warm your heart and stir your soul. I am looking forward to meeting and greeting our “Omaha-nian” audience in a few weeks when the curtain rises!

Thursday | Apr 02, 2009

Talise Trevigne – Mimi in the upcoming La Boheme

Yes, my “maninas are gelida”! True to my preferred form of method acting, I called in a few favors and asked for snow to help me get into character. As I walked to rehearsal on what should have been a spring day I got snow, and cold hands. I left my scarf and gloves at home in NYC!

It’s been a magical experience to create my first Mimì amongst new and old friends. It is times like these which remind me of how incredibly blessed I am to have such a wonderful job! I am still finding tears in my eyes as I sing Donde Lieta, although I have been singing it for quite some time now. Bring your tissue to the opera folks!

Yesterday was our first day off, and like true bohemians we spent the day at the wonderful Henry Doorly Zoo! It’s wonderful to have an opportunity to bond with the boys; we’re truly like a little family. I even baked them my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies! Now that is amore!

Monday | Mar 30, 2009

Adam Diegel – Rodolfo in the upcoming La Boheme

“Hello Omaha! What a great opportunity for we as artists and singers to perform one of the greatest operas ever composed. I hope that you all get a chance to experience this amazing musical and artistic event. Puccini’s La Bohème is one of the MOST performed operas in the history of opera and there is a reason for it! You don’t have to know about opera, music or singing; the music is so incredibly beautiful and moving that there won’t be a dry eye in the house. This opera is one of the most accessible operas ever composed. Fellas, this is a great date opportunity! Seriously, come check out La Bohème; you won’t be disappointed. See you at the opera!!”

Adam Diegel

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