24 Years Later, Roberto Alagna Steps Back Into ‘Bohème’ at the Met

The star tenor, now 56, returns to the boyish role of his breathlessly hyped 1996 debut.Roberto Alagna on the set of “La Bohème” at the Metropolitan Opera, where he sings the role of Rodolfo through Jan. 25.Credit…Devin Yalkin for The New York TimesJan. 10, 2020A skeletal set had been constructed deep within the Metropolitan Opera…

The big name tenor, now 56, returns to the boyish position of his breathlessly hyped 1996 debut.

Credit score…Devin Yalkin for The New York Occasions

author zachary woolfe thumbLarge - years, steps, roberto, later, boheme, alagna

A skeletal set have been built deep throughout the Metropolitan Opera previous this week for a practice session of Puccini’s “Los angeles Bohème,” and the antics of the outlet act ensued in a coarse approximation of a garret condominium in 19th-century Paris.

Then got here essentially the most well-known knock on a door in all of opera, as Mimì, the delicate, doomed seamstress, arrived to invite the poet Rodolfo to mild her candle.

Within the corporate’s vintage Franco Zeffirelli manufacturing, after Rodolfo calls out to invite who’s on the door and a lady’s voice solutions, he rushes over to a replicate to neaten his hair. It’s a charmingly corny second that hardly fails to earn a snigger from the target market.

As he smoothed down his temples on Monday, it was once obtrusive that the tenor Roberto Alagna, who sings Rodolfo on the Met via Jan. 25, is grayer now than he was once the remaining time he carried out the position right here — 24 years in the past, for his corporate debut.

During the last 20 years, Mr. Alagna, now 56, has slightly touched this opera as he moved from his breathlessly hyped early years to a extra under-the-radar mature stardom. Opera careers beat forever ahead, and his repertory has shifted towards heavier roles like Radamès in “Aida,” Calàf in “Turandot,” the leads within the verismo double invoice referred to as “Cav/Pag,” and the identify position in “Samson et Dalila,” with which he opened the Met’s 2018-19 season. (Even Wagner’s Lohengrin, which he canceled in 2018 and has rescheduled for q4.)

But if Peter Gelb, the Met’s common supervisor, introduced him a go back to Puccini’s boyish hero, Mr. Alagna authorized. “O.Ok., Peter,” he remembers announcing, “if you wish to take the danger, I’ll take it, too.”

“I’m more than happy they accept as true with in me to sing it,” Mr. Alagna added, sipping a can of Coca-Cola ahead of the practice session on Monday. “It’s no longer simple, as you’ll be able to consider. It’s important to battle with the ghosts of outdated singers, in addition to your individual ghost.”

Those are edited excerpts from a dialog with Mr. Alagna, which came about in a living room as a video track relayed a are living feed from a level run-through of “Los angeles Traviata,” starring Mr. Alagna’s spouse, the soprano Aleksandra Kurzak.

When is the remaining time you sang this opera?

It’s very atypical to be right here for “Bohème.” As a result of I sang my first one 30 years in the past; it was once in March ’90. The remaining time was once in 2012. It was once a gala for Covent Lawn for the 20th anniversary of assembly Angela [Gheorghiu, the soprano who became his second wife].

However actually, my remaining “Bohème” was once 20 years in the past. I sang many, many, many “Bohèmes” firstly as it’s an opera for younger singers about younger other people — glad and stuffed with hope, joking about horrible issues. They uncover existence, but in addition loss of life.

And this was once additionally my case. When I used to be younger — I used to be 29 — my first spouse changed into in poor health, and he or she died [in 1994] when I used to be making a song “Bohème.” I used to be within the health facility and he or she died there, and one week later, I sang “Los angeles Bohème” at Los angeles Scala and everybody was once in tears, I used to be crying, and it was once inconceivable to sing the remaining “Mimì.” Nonetheless as of late, after 30 years, it’s horrible for me, on the finish. For instance, two days in the past, we did the overall scene and I used to be no longer in a position to sing the remaining “Mimì.” I informed it to [the conductor, Marco] Armiliato: If you’ll be able to’t listen the “Mimì,” it’s as a result of in that second, it’s too tricky for me.

Your Met debut, in 1996, was once every other second your actual existence intersected with the tale, however this time extra fortuitously: Prior to the 5th efficiency, the overall supervisor, Joseph Volpe, introduced that you simply and Ms. Gheorghiu have been married the night time ahead of.

That was once a matinee, and we adopted it that night time with the live performance for [the 25th anniversary at the Met of] Jimmy Levine. I used to be exhausted. Nevertheless it was once just right; it wasn’t dangerous performances. I feel we had a fantastic good fortune.

Expectancies had been top: A profile in The New York Occasions ahead of your debut had the headline “May It Be True? A New Pavarotti?” And the critiques had been combined. Bernard Holland’s evaluation in The Occasions stated you had been recuperating from a chilly and dourly predicted “giant vocal troubles 5 years down the street.”

I used to be no longer unwell; I had hypersensitive reactions. I used to be allergic to aircraft bushes, and I used to be staying on the Essex Area on Central Park South. In April, it was once the worst, and I arrived the primary night time with this hypersensitive reaction. However I sang smartly.

I used to be afraid, regardless that, and I canceled the second one efficiency. And I spent my complete night time in my room, making a song. I stated, O.Ok., I can by no means cancel, it’s silly. I used to be in a position to sing.

It was once tricky for me: They offered me right here as a celebrity. It was once perhaps an excessive amount of. They put my face in every single place, at the buses, in every single place. Plácido Domingo went into the EMI place of business screaming, “He’s no longer the tenor of as of late! He’s the tenor of the long run. I am the tenor of as of late.” It was once one thing like this. It was once tricky to reach in a brand new theater with such accountability on my shoulders.

How tricky has it been to transition again to Rodolfo?

Whilst you arrive in this type of position you’ve sung some years in the past, it’s no longer really easy to position within the voice. We simply arrived from Barcelona, making a song “Cav” and “Pag,” this heavier repertoire. To go back in “Bohème” isn’t simple. It’s important to paintings to make the voice smaller and better.

However an important is the evolution of the nature. It’s not more Rodolfo, the singer and poet you wish to have to be; for me it’s now a human being, it’s nearer to me. I perceive the man and what he can really feel; the whole thing he lives on this opera, I had in my existence. Finding out, being with buddies, financial difficulties, a large number of issues, loss of life.

For me now, I’m Rodolfo in any case the ones reports, with perhaps a bit of of [Offenbach’s] Hoffmann, additionally. Now not dissatisfied with existence, precisely, however I perceive what’s vital: no longer the respect, no longer the cash, however to be smartly with your self, along with your circle of relatives, to be in just right well being and just right solidarity with other people, and in solidarity with your self. For a few years I used to be very self-critical. It was once tricky for me to hear my CDs; I used to be unhappy accepting my voice, as it wasn’t the sound I had in my thoughts. However as of late I’m extra mature, I’ve extra serenity.

I’m extra comfy, even though the problem is huge. As a result of, you already know, I can attempt to sing it [Rodolfo’s sweeping first-act aria, “Che gelida manina”] in key. Everyone, once they’re 40 years outdated, sang a part tone down — even Pavarotti, [Jussi] Bjorling, everyone. However I can check out, no longer as a result of I’m higher than others — however as it’s for me.

I need to sing transparent, younger, and no longer so huge. When I used to be younger, I had an excessively huge breath, and I loved making a song lengthy words; as of late, I you ought to be extra perhaps nearer to the rating, nearer to the phrases, nearer to the sentiment. I can you ought to be plausible.