Donning my Jimmy Olson investigative hat, I posed a query to Lee Kimball. “One hanky?”
Kimball, general and artistic director did not miss a beat. “Two or three minimum. You can loan one to your neighbor.”
“La Boheme is the perfect opera for the first time opera goer,” says Kimball. “It has some of the most beautiful music written for voice; its theme is of youth and artistic risk, of experiencing love and loss for the first time and of sacrifices one makes for one's art. And, as we know, its plot was borrowed and turned brilliantly into the long running Broadway rock opera 'Rent.' ” The success of the stage show spawned the movie.
Giacomo Puccini's masterpiece is set in 1830 in the bohemian section of Paris; the iconic Latin Quarter: 1830 bohemians begat 1960 hippies. An author, a painter, a philosopher, a singer and a seamstress are huddled in a shabby apartment conspiring on how to forage for food and make...rent.
The irony of OperaDelaware is that the organization is better known and respected more outside of the state than by its own residents.
“Consistently,” says Kimball, “we have artistic directors from around the nation attend our performances. Many of our leads have gone on to successful careers, including The Met. OperaDelaware is a showcase for amazing young talent."
All parts are paid in each production, including chorus. Anyone can try out. Kimball auditions not only in Wilmington but also in New York.
“This year we had one singer fly in from California for a 10 minute audition and fly back the same day. That is the reach and the recognition of our group.”
This fact also resonates on the power of regional theatre. Two La Boheme leads live elsewhere: North Carolina and Ohio.
Marcello, the painter, is 22-year old Jeffrey Chapman who grew up in Newark and studied at the UD. Youna Jang, the title character from last year's successful 'Madama Butterfly,' returns as Mimi, the seamstress. Her discovery by Kimball came about from his long time association with the graduate program of Temple University's Department of Music.
“Youna stunned audiences last year. We will be debuting another South Korean tenor from Temple, Injoon Yang, playing Mimi's lover, Rodolfo. This voice will soon be heard in theatres around the world, believe me.” (At his lover's tragic passing, Rodolfo cries out in anguish, weeping helplessly, thereby prompting the implementation of the aforementioned hankies.)
Kimball is proud of the fact that ticket sales - only 30 percent of the organization's budget - are up 25 percent this year. OperaDelaware is one of five beneficiaries of “Arts for Delaware's Future,” a fund headed by arts philanthropist Tatiana Copeland. Kimball reports the group has received a grant of $250,000.00 for a market survey by a major national firm. That's a lot of money. Kimball suggests the aim of the results will be to examine audiences, create focus groups and determine how to motivate various corporate stakeholders for the future of the arts in the state.
Performances are Nov. 2 at 2 p.m. and Nov. 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. The Humanities Forum is funding an hour long lecture on La Boheme before each show. OperaDelaware has connected with The Exchange Restaurant on Market Street for dinners.