Jessica Muirhead, from Canada currently based in England announced her coming to Dresden a couple of days back - on Twitter. She's singing Mimi and her fans will have certainly picked up that message - if missed Saturday's performance there is one more on 1st of July (which happens to be Canada Day - so you can expect some activities around it - any Canadians around in Dresden?).
Rushing in late (living just a stone throw away) that evening I quickly realized a full house. "This is going to be something special." I should not be mistaken!
7pm the curtains draws aside and a wonderful set, making me feel being in Paris again (memories from the 80's racing back), appears on stage. What I sense it that I much more focus on the singing and the play on stage than on the music itself (which is more of an enable of the whole - including the audience). Starting the feeling of the creative class not being accepted by mainstream society to what they produce the voices included the anger and disappointment. The young bohemians were struggling to get their art into a decent living were overwhelmed when one of them returned with some money - off they went to the city, like a tree leaf in the wind. Rodolfo (exeptionally played and sang by Wookyung Kim) however stayed a bit longer, and here the "field" shifted as Mimi (a neighbour) and sung by Jessica Muirhead, the Canadian lyric soprano, knocks on the door. A voice that immediately sent shivers down the spine as her voice cut through the vast opera house like being amplified by some hidden technology. Not quite so - it was her real voice! Amazing how some voices connect and resonate right away.
The plot even though put into late 19th century Paris is 21st century life feeling with the "new time" bohèmians of the digital and creative class pretty much in a similar situation. New creative work that has not had its equivalent in past centuries, decades, or years. The established business world does not appreciate -yet- the mostly creative work of that class. The use of new technologies and openly connecting with like-minded people across country, distance, and discipline boundaries seems to scare off the traditionalists. Pretty much the same could be seen on stage especially in the 2nd picture which showed the vivid activities around the café where mostly upper class where served. However between the bohèmians and the mainstream/ upper class there happened to be a new sort of connector: a boundary spanner (bound in a way to both parties). This one was Musetta, played by Junges Ensemble member Nadja Mchantaf, with exeptional play and singing - again the 'field' shifted. What has been just the bohèmians in the first picture now drew out into a larger crowd, Mimi and Musetta being the connection hubs. Accelerating and rich personal experience within the masses that circle the café in the winterly day comes to a point where reflection, deep though and looking for the ever new makes it necessary to emerge. The 3rd picture - well in the carneval time by now- based in a dark street scene actually with little action marks that next turning point in the story. Rodolfo tells his friend that he has broken with Mimi - what he does not know that she is listening to his words hidden close by.
Only a picture later we could learn that even though a binding thought still ran through Rodolfo's heart toward Mimi, that due to the sudden (yet not unexpected death) of Mimi was cut off. Cut off as quickly as one own's mind had to grasp the situation and emotionally interweave with own experiences of the past.
What are the findings after more than two hours of play in stage beamed into the "old" Paris of the day and the "bohèmian world"?
Learnings from that evening from my -again- very personal view (others in the audience may have seen it different):
- Good: always take the chance when offered (even at short notice) - I did not plan to see "La bohème" and quite positively surprised of what it turned out to be.
- Tricky: grasping the story and the "larger picture" behind it has taken (and still does) quite long.
- Learned: Letting go your mind off in the "open space" where memories and action on stage can connect only happens when you don't have any expectations of the evening (other than enjoying it for the joy of it); staying on the course of your dreams and inner calling (even though this seems often rough, unfulfilling, useless, or diminished by others) - not giving up and growing on the small improvements over time will pay off; coming back to my initial question up on top, I'd say it is much easier for people to visit a performance that one knows to expect - yet does that really open the eyes and hearts to new findings about how the performance connects to present reality? Perhaps there are unexplored ways to find out - let's have a chat on next time you are at Semperoper (shoot a message via Twitter mentioning #Semperoper).
- Action: learning to understand and act upon the fact that innovation (technological or social) always emerges on the very edge of current reality.
... what I'd really appreciate very much would be the ability to easily find actual pictures of the performances (especially the older ones like this one) to be used on a Creative Commons basis in order to transport the emotional feeling of the opera on stage here on a blog (characters alone on screen are not that thrilling and heart taking after all ;-))