Kelley Hollis is no stranger to MetroWest Opera. Last year, she played a heartfelt and thoughtful Beth in Mark Adamo’s Little Women. This year, she will be playing the coveted role of Mimi, a task that is not without history and expectations.
MWO: Have you performed La Boheme before?
KELLEY: Yes! I have a lot of happy memories attached to La Boheme. I participated in the Castleton Festival, which was run by the late Lorin Maazel. I covered Musetta for this production. After the festival, the sultan of Oman invited the cast to perform at a new opera house in Oman. This was an amazing experience, and I think the people of Oman really liked the production. It was also very surreal. The opera house was technically a government building, so there were guards with machine guns everywhere.
MWO: Describe your Mimi to us.
KELLEY: Playing Mimi is daunting because everyone has expectations of what it should be, and even if you do a good job, someone is bound not to like it just because you didn’t adhere to their expectations. But, I’m trying to ignore all of that and find the Mimi within me. I want to make her human and relatable. I see her as a bit of a loner, but also ballsy. She definitely has some street smarts. It has also been great to be performing with cast members who haven’t done Boheme before. This helps me approach the character from a new place.
MWO: Can you talk about your relationship with Rodolfo?
KELLEY: It’s interesting, because in learning and preparing the role, in my head Rodolfo was a man. Even though I knew it was going to be a woman. And then I get to rehearsal, and it finally clicks. I’m like, ‘Yep, Rodolfo is a woman.’ And Celeste has been great. She gives me a lot to play off of. My fellow cast members and I have also been talking about playing opposite a female lover, and how it’s actually easier than playing opposite a man. It feels scarier to kiss a man on stage. Kissing a woman on stage doesn’t come with any baggage.
MWO: Do you have a favorite part of the opera?
KELLEY: Act 2 is like a carnival ride! It’s challenging, fun, and fast. At first you have to work to keep up and not get lost, but once you know it, it sticks with you. I also just love the concept of this production…all women, set in present day. Since La Boheme has been done so many times, it is really hard to reinvent the wheel. But I think we are making an awesome attempt at doing just that.