Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ARIA READY: Q&A with Francesco Demuro, our Rodolfo

Italian tenor Francesco Demuro made his U.S. debut with Seattle Opera back in 2009, when he sang Alfredo in La traviata (you can hear a clip from that production here on his bio). He returns to Seattle next season to sing Rodolfo in La bohème, opening February 2013, and we recently spoke to him about his character's famous aria, "Che gelida manina." Below, he shares his thoughts on the music, the role, and what makes La bohème so meaningful to him. (Mr. Demuro's remarks have been translated from the Italian.)

Why does your character sing this aria?
We are in Paris and Rodolfo is a young poet who lives in a chilly attic. Before meeting his friends, fellow Bohemians, at Café Momus, he decides to finish his writing, so he lingers in his apartment. Someone knocks on the door—it is Mimì, a young girl, his neighbor, come to ask for a match. She is exhausted because of the first symptoms of tuberculosis, and Rodolfo offers her a bit of wine. The candle goes out, the key falls to the floor, and he and Mimì are looking for it together in the dark when their hands meet. Suddenly there is a strong connection between the two of them. And in that moment they share their stories with each other. Rodolfo is the one to begin presenting himself, with “Che gelida manina.”

What emotions does the aria showcase? Do you have to modulate your voice to color different emotions, at different parts of the aria?
Rodolfo wants Mimì to get to know him and at the same time make her feel what he is feeling in this encounter. It is a moment of great pathos and true romanticism. During the aria the vocal color changes—each phrase has a different sound. In a single aria he goes through many different moods, and it requires the proper vocal expression for each diverse emotion.

Francesco Demuro as Alfredo in Seattle Opera's 2009 production of La traviata.
Photo by Rozarii Lynch

In Act Two, on the subject of how smoothly Rodolfo woos Mimì, Colline and Schaunard joke that “Non son armi prime le sue rime." / "Tanto che sembra ver ciò ch’egli esprime!” (“His lines are antiques." / "That’s why they work!”) Is Mimì truly unique, or has Rodolfo sung an aria like “Che gelida manina” to other women before?
Perhaps he’s sung other songs, but not “Che gelida manina”! That one’s for her; the circumstances of their meeting are unique, and Mimì is his great love.

Does your character change as he sings this aria? How does the relationship between you and Mimì change as a result of what you sing?
After having found each other in this encounter, in all their fragility and hope, the aria permanently joins the souls of Rodolfo and Mimì.

What is the great challenge about singing this aria?
The difficulty is giving the proper depth and weight to voice and interpretation.

What do you hope the audience is listening for when you sing this aria?
La bohème is a great masterpiece—melancholy and brilliant with perfect dramaturgy. It requires great interpretive intensity; Puccini wanted to give much to the listener, and the listener should come with a pure heart, in order to be able to take from the opera the most beautiful emotions.

Eglise Gutiérrez (Violetta) and Francesco Demuro (Alfredo) in Seattle Opera's 2009 production of La traviata.
Photo by Rozarii Lynch

What do you love the most about singing this aria?
I love Puccini deeply, and La bohème is the work of my heart. When I play this role, every fiber of my being vibrates. I let myself be completely carried away by the music, these wonderful notes; I dig into myself, into my most intimate feelings, to bring even more to the character. I can't wait to sing it at Seattle Opera, where I happily made my debut in the United States and have the most beautiful memories.

No comments: