Met finds last-minute Mimi

Met finds last-minute Mimi


norman lebrecht

April 05, 2014

Kristine Opolais, who sang her first Madam Butterfly at the Met last night, will star again tonight in La Boheme. That’s brave. Ms Opolais is married to the conductor Andris Nelsons. Substitute announcement follows.

andris nelsons


Subject: Metropolitan Opera Cast Change Advisory – Today’s La Boheme

Kristine Opolais will sing Mimi in today’s matinee performance of Puccini’s La Bohème, replacing Anita Hartig, who is ill.

Miss Opolais has agreed to perform today on extremely short notice after singing the title role of Madama Butterfly for the first time at the Met just last evening. Opolais has sung Mimi with the Vienna State Opera, Berlin State Opera, and Latvian National Opera and will sing the role at the Met next season. She made an acclaimed Met debut last year as Magda in Puccini’s La Rondine.

Today’s performance of La Bohème, which is being transmitted worldwide as part of the Met’s Live in HD series, is expected to reach a global audience of more than 300,000 people.

La Bohème also stars Susanna Phillips as Musetta, Vittorio Grigolo as Rodolfo, Massimo Cavalletti as Marcello, Patrick Carfizzi as Schaunard, Oren Gradus as Colline, and Donald Maxwell as Benoît/Alcindoro. Stefano Ranzani conducts.



  • Brian says:

    A remarkable and remarkably collegial feat. Though the fine (and undervalued) Gabriella Tucci sang Marguerite in FAUST and Mimi in Boheme ON THE SAME DAY at the Met, 23 October 1965. The evening Mimi was to replaced an indisposed soprano.

  • Ted says:

    I listened to the broadcast, and I think Opolais failed to impress either vocally or dramatically. She does have good looks, but Mimi is not her thing. Too bad Hartig couldn’t do it. It’s quite interesting that Opolais is at her worst exactly where Angela Gheorghiu is at her best: in Donde lieta usci & the death scene.

    I think Opolais’ best role so far is Rusalka, where she surely rivals Fleming.

    • Since I attended the Telecast, I didn’t hear the radio performance. I had an entirely different reaction. The performance came across as an entirely different one as described by you. Opolais and Grigolo made a touching and tender Mimi and Rodolfo on camera and their vocals definitely suited the opera. The artistic difference between the radio and the telecast makes for an interesting discussion. I would very much like to hear other opinions on this.

    • sdReader says:

      Agreed about the Dvorak. She’s a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice, although its middle is modest and there is no bottom.

    • Brian says:

      I well remember the HD Boheme with Gheorghiu. I turned to a friend afterwards and said she didn’t move me once in two hours and he agreed. It was so cold, calculating, the art that conceals feeling, I would have sworn it was Emilia Marty come back to life save for the initials. Opolais was a good way better than that performance.

  • richardcarlisle says:

    Extreme case of the Met lucking out — that she happened to be at hand AND widely experienced in the role in three countries AND brave enough to attempt that overload … a most enjoyable afternoon for me — her performance and all others in the cast.

    Complete thumbs up!

    • Naomi Leveson says:

      an outstanding performance. Astonishing after only 2 hours sleep. Bravo!

    • Marius says:

      I agree whole heartedly. One can point out flaws, but courage should always be admired.

    • sdReader says:

      No luck involved. The cover was Barbara Frittoli.

      • Barbara says:

        So why did they go for Opolais in preference to Frittoli? Frittoli probably isn’t an ideal Mimi, but at least she would have been rested. And she is intimately familiar with the Met and (I think) has done several live broadcasts.

        I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the powers-that-be at the Met made this decision…

  • Robert Morris says:

    I saw the opera this afternoon, and say brava! to Kristine Opolais for a moving performance not only on short notice, but with only two and a half hours of sleep. Amazingly well done under the circumstances. There were only a few moments when she seemed to falter slightly, and the lung power and tone at the end were strong and true.

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    I saw it live in HD. I have to say that I am beyond impressed with her courage to go ahead without rehearsals and do it.

    I will say that a real musician conducting might have had a different outcome.

    I am not entirely sure how conductors get to conduct at the MET. He was no asset to this beautifully designed production.The world need good musicians to conduct in the opera houses. We have kids given big jobs. I could care less for the so called wunderkinds with a stick in their hands. They need to learn music and about music.

    It used to be that the old Italian opera conductors were a sure bet.

    Today’s guy, left a lot to be desired.

  • Cambridge says:

    I thought she find very well in the circumstances , although she looked very tired by the end, which is not surprising! Think Ted must have been watching a different broadcast!

    • Fred says:

      Ted was correct. No doubt she was extraordinarily brave, and her voice was fine tho understandably weak, her overcharachterization of her TB, from beginning to end, cast a pall over the entire production. She didn’t look Grigola directly– and maybe smile– at no time.

  • Barbara says:

    The only reason I went to see this Boheme was wanting to see Anita Hartig as Mimi, so I was naturally disappointed by the substitution. However, I’d been impressed by Kristine Opolais at last year’s PROMS, so was hoping that she might carry it off.

    Sadly, she was not at her best and sounded very tired. Which of course is not surprising, given that she had sung Madama Butterfly the night before.

    It was reported that she initially declined ‘the call’, and then relented, and one has to commend her for that. However, I find it amazing that a huge organisation like the Met does not have a cover in place for such an important role, particularly since this performance was being transmitted live.

  • Nancy says:

    I was at the Met, blessed with excellent orchestra seats, and both my husband and I were deeply moved by the production, and Kristine’s performance. Just knowing how much heart and hard work went into her effort to sing Mimi after giving her all the night before, made it a true once-in-a-life experience. This is not just about comparing “who sang what better” – this was an Olympian challenge, and that woman deserves a gold medal!! Brava to you, Kristine, and thank you for giving us all a healthy dose of inspiration!

    • richardcarlisle says:

      Thanks kindly for your inspiring direct experience and insightful positive account … perhaps the nitpickers could make even better use of their time looking around their house to see what needs dusting or perhaps do some furniture rearranging.

  • Roger says:

    I attended the HD broadcast. Her performance was heroic! Applause, not nitpicking, is what she receives from me!

  • Marian says:

    I saw the HD performance, and I thought she did an amazing job. Usually Mimi is played by some plump rosy faced soprano who doesn’t exactly look like she’s wasting away, so the fact that she looked a little tired actually worked for the role. I thought she managed the singing and staging very well, although she lacked power at times-especially compared to Musetta who was a real show-stopper. When she came out on stage at the end she looked like a runner who’s just finished a marathon-which she basically had. This was an extraordinary feat and she deserves a lot of credit for taking it on.

    • richardcarlisle says:


      I felt a wealth of natural beauty in both voices that resonated — rather than competed — throughout … one more energetic than the other made it no less interesting and I sensed a certain empathy for the stress Kristine was under on the part of other performers providing a subtle undercurrent of goodwill.

  • G Ell says:

    Not sure what the fuss is all about re a last minute substitution in a role already in the singer’s rep and after having sung another role the night before. It isn’t as if it hasn’t happened countless times before. And although Butterfly is a demanding role, Mimi isn’t. It comes to show how desperate for “news” is the Met and the industry in general. Question is does this soprano have any individuality of sound and style? That would be newsworthy but I detect none. But she looks good. No wonder she “triumphed”.

  • Dave Hughes says:

    Though not mentioned on most of the press about the last minute change of principal singer – the live audience and the television broadcast, I was able to listen to the entire 3 hour+ Opera by FM Classical Radio in Colorado Springs. I am sure many others heard it too.

    Kristine sang beautifully as far as I was concerned. I was not distracted by her appearance. Just her voice.

  • Ed Alley says:

    From the HD we saw, I thought she did a terrific job, everything considered. She is a real colleague to risk herself in that very spotlighted situation, and she came thorough. The weakest link to me was the conductor, who at times conducted as if he were double-parked, with little sensitivity to the singers,especially the chorus, which came through as always in spite of some very cavalier tempi and phrasing in the pit.

  • ReasonablePerson says:

    Oops – meant this:

    Mr. Gelb: Good morning, Ms. Hartig. We understand you’re suffering from the flu. I’m so sorry to ask you last minute like this, but you see, *Ms. Opalais* was to sing *Mimi* this afternoon, but she’s feeling fine….

  • Singing on two hours sleep is to be congratulated. I’m certain there were aspects of her performance that were not perfect. You know the person who is likely to be most aware of that is Kristine Opalais. She sang Butterfly and Mimi in back-to-back performances with little sleep. Neither is a light sing. If her bottom notes were not that full-bodied firstly she is a lyric soprano, and secondly that she maintained a sense of stage presence through the second opera is to be congratuated.

    I will condemn where I believe it is due, and when adults attempt to get young girls to sing this stuff it makes me wince, yet when a singer is fulfilling an understudy role under difficult circumstances, then the challenge of that situation needs to be understood. Singer’s get sick and need understudies. At present, the Met are having a bit of a rough time.

    • Brian says:

      Seems to me right on all counts, Joanna. I’m still puzzled that the actual cover, Barbara Frittoli, not exactly a tyro, and sang a very good Suor Angelica under the same conductor in a Met HD Trittico a couple of seasons ago, was not called on…