Wednesday, December 9, 2009

One moment in time ... La Boheme

On this date in 1993, the MET gave it's 1,000th performance of La Bohème. The cast, conducted by Carlo Rizzi, boasted a little known soprano at the time, Angela Gheorghiu who had just given her debut 5 days earlier, as Mimi. Also singing was MET old-timer Carol Neblett as Musetta. Ms. Neblett, gave her final performance at the MET 12 days later.

Being that I love a good conspiracy theory... I ask you: Coincidence? One soprano in and another one out?

Hmmm... you be the judge.

Some of you might remember the name Carol Neblett from some controversy she sparked over 30 years ago during a production at NY City Opera. It was in their production of Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea that she distinguished herself by being the first singer on a New York opera stage to appear in total nudity.

1000 performances earlier, the MET's premiere of La Bohème was actually at the Hazard's Pavilion in Los Angeles on November 9, 1900. This cast, conducted by Luigi Mancinelli, featured Dame Nellie Melba as Mimi. Oddly enough, after singing Mimi, Dame Melba returned to the stage to sing the Mad Scene from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. La Bohème received fifteen performances during the 1900 season, eight of them concluding with her performance of the Mad Scene.

Now, THAT'S one hell of an encore!

Dame Nellie Melba was born Helen Porter Mitchell in Australia. She became one of the most famous singers of the late Victorian Era and the early 20th century due to the purity of her lyrical voice and the brilliance of her technique. Melba was the first Australian to achieve international recognition as a classical musician. She was also one of the first stage performers (along with Dame May Whitty) to be made a Dame of the Order of the British Empire.

From Dame Nellie Melba to Angela Gheorghiu - my, how times have changed.

[Photos - Top: Angela Gheorghiu by Sasha Gusov. Bottom: Dame Nellie Melba as Mimi.]

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