Benjamin Sieverding is a Resident Artist at Minnesota Opera and an active bass vocalist both regionally and internationally. He performs the role of Colline, a philosopher, in Minnesota Opera's La Bohème which plays at the Ordway in St. Paul, Minnesota through May 21, 2017.
I saw this production last week and it was my first experience with La Bohème. I am a big fan of the musical Rent which uses this opera as source material. It was delightful to see the similarities of the two pieces that have performed on the same stage (I've seen Rent twice at the Ordway). La Bohème is one of the most commonly produced operas and when I saw this production understand why: The music is extraordinarily lovely. And powerful! I'm also a fan of art about artists and I really enjoyed the intertwined stories of these Parisian friends and lovers.
Benjamin answered a few questions for my Artfully Engaging readers about the importance of music in his life, his dream opera roles and about the current production of Minnesota Opera's La Bohème.
The story may be set in a different place and time, but the core themes remain: young love, friendship, and living life to the fullest (while not taking things too seriously).
Can you tell us a little about your character in La Bohème, Colline?
Colline is a young philosopher who perhaps totes more book-learned knowledge than experiential wisdom. Like the other Bohemians, he's extremely witty and has excellent comedic timing. As he witnesses the sickness and passing of Mimi toward the end of the opera, Puccini gives him a chance to bid farewell to not only his beloved coat, but his carefree youth.
I've quite enjoyed the rehearsal process for this production. Credit must be given to our engaging stage director, Octavio Cardenas. He has an incredible way of guiding us to his end vision while allowing us to simultaneously create and explore amongst our characters. Octavio also knows the importance of levity, and uses the many jokes scattered throughout the piece to their full potential. It's been really intriguing to work with both of these superbly talented and playful casts and find the unique flavors and ideas each group wants to highlight.
What about music inspires you to dedicate so much time and passion into this profession?
Benjamin: I can trace roughly 95% or more of the relationships in my life back to music. Without it, I probably never would have met my wife, the majority of my friends, and the extensive network of arts aficionados and supporters with whom I've been lucky to connect over the years. Music brings people together in very powerful and true ways, and that alone is reason enough for me to dedicate my time and energy to pursuing my career within it.
Minnesota Opera engages an overwhelming amount of talented guest artists throughout each season, and it has been extremely valuable to learn from and get to know them. Each singer brings a different palate of artistic choices and life experiences which in turn enrich each production, and the level of quality is always so high.
What are some of your dream roles?
I'd love to eventually tackle both Phillip II and the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos, König Marke in Tristan und Isolde, and the title role in Bluebeard's Castle.
If you could describe La Bohème in three words, what would they be?
Benjamin: Heartfelt, tragic, and fun.
TICKET INFORMATION: La Bohème
• Saturday, May 6 at 7:30pm
• Thursday, May 11 at 7:30pm
• Saturday, May 13 at 7:30pm
• Sunday, May 14 at 2pm
• Tuesday, May 16 at 7:30pm
• Thursday May 18 at 7:30pm
• Friday, May 19 at 7:30pm
• Saturday, May 20 at 7:30pm
• Sunday, May 21 at 2pm
Preliminary run time of 2 hours and 34 minutes, including two intermissions.
Sung in Italian with English translations projected above the stage.
Ordway Music Theater
345 Washington Street
Saint Paul, MN 55102
- If you enjoyed this interview, you may also like my interview with Andrew Lovato of the Minnesota Opera.
- Also, read about fellow Twin Cities Theater Blogger Jill Schafer's passion for rent in ‘La Boheme’ and ‘Rent’ — both celebrate Bohemian life, both staging here by Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press. Jill has seen Rent 14 times!