They're young, they're sexy, they're international — and they are in triplicate.
Baz Luhrmann's three alternating principal casts for his upcoming Broadway production of Puccini's La Boheme will be led by performers unknown to conventional musical theatre audiences, but, then nothing is conventional about the new-to-Broadway revival of the Italian opera.
The principal characters of Mimi and Rodolfo will be performed alternately by three different singers each (including three Americans, a Shanghai native, a Russian-born soprano and a Brit), it was officially announced July 8. The three women alternating in the role of Mimi are Lisa Hopkins from the United States, Wei Huang from China, and Ekaterina Solovyeva from Russia. The three men alternating in the role of Roldolfo are Alfred Boe from England and Jesus Garcia and David Miller, both from the United States.
The Boheme cast will number 50, and the performers will be members of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) rather than Actors' Equity, which represents most Broadway actors.
More Boheme casting will be announced at a later date. It was not immediately known if other principals in the tale of love and loss among Parisian bohemians would be triple-cast, or if just the main lovers — who have the most demands, vocally — are conceived that way. Director Luhrmann's production of the opera, billed here as "The Greatest Love Story Ever Sung," will open at the Broadway Theatre Dec. 8, following previews that begin Nov. 22. It has not been announced if there is a plan concerning which cast will be reviewed, but given the fact that all six are considered right for the roles, it is likely all three casts will be reviewed, depending which press night critics attend. The questions are in discussions, a spokesperson told Playbill On-Line.
Predicting how the principals may or may not be eligible for Tony Awards is more difficult, but the Tony nominating committee has been flexible in the past: When two actresses played conjoined twins in Side Show in 1998, they were, together, considered one actress and were nommed as such for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.
The casting search included more than 3,000 young singers over almost two years. Most singers had three auditions before finally being selected. In the United States, auditions took place in New York City, Glimmerglass (Cooperstown), Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Memphis, Philadelphia, Washington, Santa Fe and Cincinnati. Internationally, auditions were held in Toronto, London, Milan, Valencia, Marseilles, Cardiff, Sydney, Leeds, U.K. and Antwerp.
La Boheme will have a pre-Broadway engagement at San Francisco's Curran Theatre Oct. 1-Nov. 10. This is Australian director Luhrmann's first theatrical venture in the United States. The producers are Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum, Emanuel Azenberg and Bazmark Live.
Musical director Constantine Kitsopoulos will conduct a 26 piece orchestra.
"When Puccini and his librettists created La Boheme, opera was actually the popular entertainment of the day," Luhrmann said in a statement. "With our cast of young singers, we hope to tell this story in a way that will appeal not only to the people who love Puccini's music, but to the younger audiences who may never have seen an opera before. It's always our job as storytellers to re-enliven that story. To find a new way that it can be received and embraced again, and that's absolutely what we've set out to address in this theatre, in the Broadway Theatre, in this city, in New York City, and most particularly, in this time."
The doomed love affair between seamstress Mimi and the artist Rodolfo is set against the world of bohemian Paris. As previously announced, this new Broadway production will be set in 1957, and will be sung in the original Italian with English surtitles.
Luhrmann's La Boheme premiered in 1990, and became the biggest hit in the history of the Sydney Opera House and a sold-out sensation. It played return engagements at the Sydney Opera House in 1993, when it was recorded for video, and in 1996.
As previously announced, the design staff will include Academy Award winners Catherine Martin (scenic design and co-costume design) and Angus Strathie (co-costume design), Nigel Levings (lighting design) and Acme Sound Partners (sound design).
Onetime actor Luhrmann is internationally known for directing the films "Strictly Ballroom" (which he began as a play), "Romeo + Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge." He has worked in film, opera, theatre, music and events management. With wife Catherine Martin, he is the founder and director of Bazmark. In 1988, he created the critically acclaimed opera, Lake Lost, with composer Felix Meagher, where he first collaborated with designer Catherine Martin.
As provided by the producers, here are the bios of the performers playing the Mimis and Rodolfos:
Alfred Boe (Rodolfo) is originally from Lancashire, England. He was accepted to The Royal College of Music where he was given top honors for his music. He was one of the first singers to be given a place on the Vilar Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House. Performances include Roderigo on Verdi's Otello, Ramendado in Bizet's Carmen, Nenco in Haydn's L'infrdelta Delusa and the title role in Britten's Albert Herring at Glyndbourne.
Jesus Garcia (Rodolfo) is originally from League City, TX. He was the winner of the 2001 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He is currently completing his second year as a Resident Artist with the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. Roles include Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Ferrando in Cosi fan Tutte, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Elvino in La Sonnambula, Rodolfo in La Boheme, Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Alfredo in La Traviata and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly.
Lisa Hopkins (Mimi) is originally from Salt Lake City, UT. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theater Studies and Acting from Yale University in 2001. After receiving her BA she went on to the Manhattan School of Music and is currently getting her Master's in Voice. She is the founder of the Yale College Opera Company. Performances include La Voix Humaine, Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare, Polly Peachum in The Threepenny Opera, Casilda in The Gondoliers, Mrs. Nordstrom in Sondheim's A Little Night Music.
Wei Huang (Mimi) is originally from Shanghai, China. She graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1999. After she received her Bachelors Degree she went on to Brooklyn College where she received her Master's of Music Degree in Vocal Performance in 2002. Roles include Pamina in Mozart's Die Zauberflote, Hanna in Lehar's The Merry Widow, Mimi in La Boheme, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Juilet in Gounod's Romeo et Juliet, The Princess in Ravel's L'enfant et les sortileges and Miss Silverpeal in Mozart's The Impresario.
David Miller (Rodolfo) is originally from Littleton, CO. He received his Masters Degree in Opera Theatre along with his Bachelors of Music Degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He recently returned from Italy where he performed Manon by Massenet. Other roles include Lysander in Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream, Jenik in Bartered Bride, Albert in Albert Herring, Rinuccio in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, and Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus. He has also performed at the White House for the former President Clinton. Upcoming projects include the one-act opera, Vita, where David will perform a role written specifically for him at La Scala in Milan.
Ekaterina Solovyeva (Mimi) is originally from St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1994 she graduated from the St. Petersburg State Conservatory. That same year she entered the Academy of Young Singers of the Mariinsky Theatre. Her repertoire includes Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro, Thibault in Don Carlo, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Giulietta in Les Contes d'Hoffman, Musetta in La Boheme and Prilepa in Queen of Spades.
La Boheme's playing schedule will be 8 PM Tuesday Saturday; 2 PM Wednesday and Saturday; 3 PM Sunday.
Tickets ($20-$95) go on sale via phone Sept. 15 a (212) 239 6200 or (800) 432-7250.