By Tamara Vallejos
Joshua Bloom may have only a few minutes of music to sing as Colline in La Bohème, but the Australian bass makes a huge impression in that brief time. A recent review of the production calls Bloom a “revelation,” saying he has “a powerful voice that resonates throughout the Ellie [Caulkins Opera House]” and citing his Coat Aria in Act IV as “an unexpected highlight” whose “passionate delivery [contributes] greatly to the scene’s pathos.” Today on the blog, we catch up with Bloom to discuss La Bohème, plus find out where he’s off to after the run wraps up next week. If you haven’t yet seen this production, then you have three more chances! Don’t miss one of the final performances of La Bohème, tonight and again on November 12 and 15.
This production of La Bohème marks your Opera Colorado debut—but is it also your first time visiting and exploring Denver? And where are you from originally?
Yes, this is my first time. When I’ve been on tour, I’ve gone to other parts of Colorado, but never Denver. I’ve had time to explore the downtown area, but I haven’t yet been able to get out and about. I’m from Australia originally, from Melbourne, but I lived in San Francisco for about ten years. Recently, about two years ago, I became a resident of London; my wife is English, so I thought it would be childish not to live with her. [Laughs]
Can you tell us about your background with La Bohème?
Well, La Bohème is probably the opera I’ve been in the most. I’ve sung Colline several times. I’ve also sung Marcello and Schaunard, and I covered Alcindoro. On tour, I covered the little bit parts in Act III. So, basically, any role that I could possibly sing in La Bohème, I’ve sung.
Do you have a favorite of the roles that you’ve done in La Bohème?
Frankly, I think Marcello is the best part in the piece. He’s the best character, and he’s got the best parts. But the tenors would probably beg to differ!
Let’s talk about your role in this production. What do you feel about your character? Do you like him? Can you relate to him? Do you like his music?
Obviously everyone knows the Coat Aria, “Vecchia zimarra senti,” that Colline sings, but there are only about six minutes of singing that he does in the entire role. One and a half minutes of that is the Coat Aria, so that’s a quarter of the role. You don’t have a huge amount of time to develop the character. But I think Colline really develops his character through his interactions with the other bohemians, especially with Schaunard because they hang out quite a bit. They’re like the other couple because they aren’t paired off with anybody else.
Since you don’t have a lot of actual singing time, you have the opportunity to really observe and absorb the entire show around you. Given that, do you have a favorite part of La Bohème?
My favorite part is actually parts of Act III, which I’m not in. Act III probably has the best music. I don’t go and watch opera that often, to be fair. But from the wings, it’s got such great tunes. It goes along at a pace where there aren’t many points where the piece lags, which is kind of rare. There aren’t very many operas where you can say that you’re completely fascinated for every minute of the piece. But that’s why I think La Bohème is so popular. It’s compactly, tightly composed. Musically and in terms of the story line, you get one great tune right after another. I think that’s why it is a sort of perennial favorite.
What are you doing after you wrap up in Denver? Where are you off to next?
I have ten days at home, and then I go to Tel Aviv for the first time to do Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Beyond that, the role that I’m probably the most excited about is that I’m going to do my first Bluebeard for Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle in Dublin next year. It’s a piece that’s been on my wishlist for a long time. Finally I get to do it. So I’m going to have to get some Hungarian coaching.
Wow! That can’t be easy!
I’ve heard that Hungarian is not the easiest of all languages to pick up. It isn’t really related to any of the other languages I’ve sung in. I’ve done some Czech, so there are a few similarities, but they aren’t really related, so we’ll see!