Laura Ethington won the 2016 MetroWest Opera Vocal Competition. Along with a cash prize, winners are also guaranteed a lead role in a MetroWest Opera production. Laura will be playing the role of Mimi in our production of La Femme Boheme this spring. Here’s what she had to say about this epic role.
MWO: How do you see Mimi in this production?
LAURA: This production definitely does not portray the main characters in their traditional roles. I think this is mainly because it is an all-female cast, and partially because it is set in modern times. My Mimi is a tad more sassy and funny, and she has a bit of a cat-and-mouse relationship with Rodolfo, especially in the beginning. The setting in modern times makes it easier to be forthright with emotions, as it is no longer during the age of propriety and gender norms. Also, with all the characters as women, the show is not about the tension between men and women, but about the different relationships and friendships between the female characters. For example, when Mimi goes to Marcello in Act 3, she is going to her friend for help, instead of simply seeking out the help of one of Rodolfo’s friends.
MWO: Since this is double-cast, how do you interact with the other Mimi (Kelley Hollis) in rehearsing and preparing the role?
LAURA: I think being in a double-cast role is one of the best ways to grow as an artist. Kelley and I really play off each other and talk about trying things differently as we go. Our characterizations of Mimi are different (mine is a bit more dominating and knows what she wants, or so she thinks), so not everything we try will work for both of us. But it’s great to be able to see someone else experimenting with different angles. In Act 1, for example, when Mimi can’t find her key, we decided that Mimi can be “looking” for the key and stay completely in charge of the situation. There are so many different options to play with, which is a lot of fun.
MWO: What is your favorite part of this role and opera?
LAURA: This is one of the top five roles everyone wants to see and/or perform. The music is simply beautiful, and I find new meaning and nuance in the lines all the time. I have always loved Mimi’s aria Donde lieta. Right now though, what excites me is Sono andati in Act 4. There is beauty and power in the silence and stillness of this moment. I think a lot of performers are afraid of stillness. It has been really gratifying to explore and inhabit the quiet.
MWO: Anything else you want to add?
LAURA: This production comes at an extremely divisive time. Just today, President Trump ended funding for Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative. It is very meaningful to be a part of an all-female opera in a time where funding for the arts and to close the gender gap, among other things, are on the chopping block.