Celeste Godin will play Rodolfa in MetroWest Opera’s production of La Femme Boheme. She has performed La Boheme before as a chorus member, as Mimi for Acts I and III, and has covered Musetta. We sat down with her to see how she is approaching playing this traditionally male role.
MWO: How do you see your Rodolfa?
CELESTE: I see Rodolfa as a young romantic. I imagine she’s at a point in her life where she intellectually understands the “gray” areas, but she still feels things as pretty black and white (I think this interpretation is supported by the political nature of the production, but I won’t give anything away!).
MWO: Are there specific things you’ll do differently because the character is now a woman?
CELESTE: I don’t believe there is anything I’ll play differently due to gender alone (beyond general physicality). In my mind, there are parts of the role that are more “masculine” and “feminine,” but women and men exhibit both these traits at certain points in their daily lives, so I don’t see this as influencing the overall character.
My biggest challenge has actually been adapting the gender in conjunction with the time period. A huge difficulty for me was reconciling the sincerity of Rodolfa’s feelings for Mimi with her many semi to full-on offensive lines (for example, “You’re mine” after being rejected, and saying “I would never forgive you for acting like that” as a warning to Mimi). In traditionally staged shows, I think we find it easy to dismiss these things. Placing the show in the here and now brings out the darker aspects of the character – disregard of consent, lack of boundaries, jealously, shaming – aspects that were generally ignored or accepted at the time, but would make us cringe now.
Despite this, I do believe that the most important and lovable aspect of the character continues to rings clear. There is generally a naive, dreamy streak in the character – she is, after all, spouting beautiful, poetic language throughout the opera. I also believe she is ardent and genuine. Marcella immediately calls her out when she isn’t being sincere, leading me to believe that Rodolfa is a horrible liar. And if Mimi is choosing to come back and spend her last moments with Rodolfa, one can only imagine what kind of incredible romance they must have had. I think that in spite of Rodolfa’s extremely flawed (and unhealthy) approach to a relationship with Mimi, she still needs to be a likeable character in order to make the love story both poignant and believable. I’m looking forward to discovering more during the rehearsal process!
MWO: What do you think will be special about doing this with an all female cast?
So many things! Professionally, it’s amazing that this single production is giving so many opportunities to women in a field that often… doesn’t. Or can’t. (You can only do so many shows about nuns in a year.) It also provides women with so many different situations and power positions to play in dramatically, when traditionally women play less powerful roles. Here, we get to play outside the box!
It may seem strange, but vocally, not having to think about the fach system has been just as freeing as the concept of the show. We didn’t need to conform to previous ideas of what kind of female voice would be most appropriate to these male roles, so we were free to audition for whatever felt comfortable and healthy to sing.
Within the production, we have a really amazing group. I couldn’t imagine a better creative environment for this ground-breaking and empowering production. Much of this is due to the uplifting, supportive, warm nature of the cast, though we can’t forget about the incredible creative team, music staff, and production staff as the remaining piece of this awesome opera puzzle!
Come see Celeste, and the rest of our wonderful cast of La Femme Boheme at the Mosesian Center for the Arts in Watertown, May 18-21!