BWW Interviews: Heidi Stober Talks Playing Musetta in LA BOHÈME
LA BOHÈME opens this week at Houston Grand Opera. It runs from October 19 to November 10, 2012. Busy with rehearsals and putting the final touches on this perennial favorite, Heidi Stober who is portraying Musetta took a few moments to chat about the character, the show, and herself.
Me: What was it like being cast as Musetta who is such an iconic character in the renowned opera LA BOHÈME?
Heidi Stober: I mean, it’s great. It’s my second time singing Musetta. My first time was in Santa Fe in the summer of 2011. For me, one of the great things is just being back at Houston Grand Opera because I was a young artist here from the studio program. Also, the cast is a lot of young, wonderful singers. This is just an incredible opera with beautiful music and a very moving, touching story. The conductor is a dear friend of mine who also went through the studio here, and the director, John Caird, has just been really amazing to work with.
Me: How do you prepare for a role like Musetta?
Heidi: First and foremost, I just learn the music and working on the language as well. And then, I’ve seen LA BOHÈME a number of times and in various places, and I sort of take in what different directors and productions do with the character. Then you really have to be open, when you start a new rehearsal process, to the ideas of the director, the conductor, and, of course, your colleagues that you’ll be interacting with on stage as well. But, certainly, with something like Musetta in [LA] BOHÈME, it’s just such a famous opera that you’re going to already have some preconceived ideas from hearing her famous aria for years and years and years and knowing just different, amazing people who have sung this role.
Me: So, how do you approach Musetta, who has been played by so many people before, to make the character your own?
Heidi: Yes, of course, it’s helpful to listen recordings and different interpretations, but my big thing when I’m studying a role is I think it’s really important not to get bogged down with having certain ways of singing something and certain interpretations so present in the forefront of my mind. For me, it’s about taking and really examining this character and what I get from the different aspects of her scenes in this show—the different layers of Musetta. It’s not just about her being a huge flirt and loving attention, which is what comes out in Act II, but really Act IV, for me, which is the scene when Mimi is dying in the small apartment of the men of, is when we see the real Musetta—her wanting to take control of the situation, to be helpful to everyone else around her, this maturity, this real pain that she feels and goes through seeing this young woman dying, and seeing the pain that is created in her lover.
Me: Other than being one of the world’s most famous operas, why should Houston audiences be excited to see this production of LA BOHÈME?
Heidi: This is a brand new production. The design is really fantastic, the set is really interesting, and it's not as though there is something completely wild and new that’s happening. I’m based in Germany now, and there’s a lot of very, very wacky takes on productions and operas that have been around for hundreds of years. So, it’s nothing like that. The costuming design is great. John Caird is, as I said, an amazing director, and I feel like he is well beyond the sort of clichéd ideas about LA BOHÈME that can exist and can be out there. There are just some wonderful subtleties, details, and layers that I think are coming out in this production, which I think would be a great reason to see it actually more than once, if people can. And, the cast is a young group of lovely singers, lovely actors, and the dynamic between all of us as people, just in real life, is very strong. I think it’s going to be a really, really lovely night at the opera.
Me: Is LA BOHÈME a good first opera for someone to see?