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La Bohème: Opera in four scenes (Giacomo Puccini)

David Leigh as Colline. Nikolai Kazansky as Schaunard. <br/>Rame Lahaj as Rodolfo. Andrei Jilihovschi as Marcello. <br/> Photo by Damir Yusupov.When it comes to La Bohème, the first association that arises in my mind is the epoch of Puccini. In Paris, that was a fantastic time – the time of Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, and the Moulin Rouge. We wish to recreate this fascinating atmosphere, but to avoid thorough reconstruction. Inspired by the famous Impressionist paintings, we try to grasp certain color effects and use them in the design of our performance. Sometimes we resort to the technical tools of late modernism (set design by Bruno de Lavenère, costume design by Cédric Tirado, ed.). We draw Paris of Pissarro and Lautrec with their paints, adding some modern shades, especially in acting. Movements, gestures – they are very modern.

I see an excellent esthetic approach in this film. Luhrmann literally breathed modern energy into the costumes and scenery of late 19th century. I’m also curious to put ourselves into that historical epoch and then show it to today's audience. Ultimately, my goal is to give our audience a dream.

Of course, in this opera we are dealing with drama, but there are a lot of comic episodes in it. A number of comic episodes (almost the entire second act, ed.) should be staged in a certain rhythm, which means that we are already out of the reality. At the rehearsals I often tell the artists about the animated cartoons: a cat runs after a mouse, runs five minutes in the air-and ... suddenly falls (Ah!). We try to create similar reactions, so that the audience was surprised and laughed.

More realistic acting is required in the tragic episodes, for example, the final of the opera, as it deals with real feelings. When Mimi dies — this scene lasts for a while —a silver lining, as I call it, appears in the music. At that scene I suggested the singer to go up the stairs. Of course, this is not realistic: a sick person cannot handle such a rise. But this movement adds poetry, even pathos in the performance, that's touching. However, I do not believe in pure realism on stage. I think theatre is a place for imagination.

I love working with choir. Especially, at the Bolshoi. The Bolshoi’s Choir is highly skilled and open to new experiences. I also adore children’s choir. In opera performances the choir is often seen as a homogeneous mass. But I want each choir artist to be involved in the production, to be a certain character with his own emotions and costume.

About two hundred costumes were made for this performance for all participants (they are soloists, choir, children’s choir, extras ensemble, orchestra members performing on the stage). And a poodle! For sure, it won’t wear a costume; still a special dog collar was made for it.