Our La Bohème Who’s Who
Meet our Bohèmians!
You will meet Andrew René as Marcello in La Bohème this summer. Marcello is a poor young painter who is part of the “bohemians” of the opera’s title. But Andrew is a modern-day baritone who loves opera:
“I particularly enjoy the fact that opera takes all of the performing arts and combines them into one art form,” he says. “That’s what originally drew me in. Experiencing the lush sounds of the orchestra, the inventive sets, atmospheric lighting, movement, acting, and virtuosic singing as a single phenomenon is quite a thrill. Seeing a roomful of people excited to watch opera makes me very happy.”
He loves to get involved in every character:
“What makes me happiest about opera is being able to explore the roles I play, both musically and dramatically. Each character has his or her own strengths and flaws, and I find the process of discovering those details particularly rewarding. Sometimes, that process teaches me something new about myself too.”
Andrew has particular opera favorites: “One of the most rewarding pieces for me to sing is, in fact, La Bohème. Another favorite is the sextet from the second act of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. My two favorite works to listen to are Rigoletto and Madama Butterfly, the first two operas I heard.”
And on the subject of getting work, Andrew comments: “Auditioning has been and still is the biggest challenge for me. Specifically, it’s a challenge financially but also in terms of skill and planning. How will I get to the audition? May I sing what I want or do they have certain repertoire requirements? How do the requirements of this company differ from another? When are the deadlines for submission? Can I pool multiple auditions into one trip? Will my work schedule allow me to go? Do I even have enough funding to begin answering these questions? It can be a complicated matter.”
When he is off work, he likes to walk around and take photographs, saying it helps him to understand his environment. He aspires to one day own a camera of professional quality.
Scott Ballentine is our Schaunard, a musician and one of the bohemians, in La Bohème. He is a baritone. We asked him what got him into opera, and it has everything to do with La Bohème:
“I got into opera because my first voice teacher introduced me to classical singing and I knew I wanted to be able to make sounds like that. However, I knew I was hooked on opera after I heard La Boheme for the first time in high school. I was in the chorus for a local production in my home town and spent every free minute in my car listening to the La Boheme for months.”
Scott is happiest telling stories on stage. He loves being part of opera that has an impact on the community. His favorite piece to sing is anything by Puccini, and his favorite to hear is Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. His most challenging roles have often been the most rewarding, particularly the title role in Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and Hannah Before in As One.
Outside of his opera experience, Scott sang back-up for alternative rock musician and composer Ben Folds on three occasions in Utah, Colorado and Texas.
Carl Samet will sing the role of Colline in Opera Wilmington’s La Bohème this summer. Colline, a bass, is one of the bohemian friends who is a philosopher.
Carl was “discovered” by a music counselor at his camp when he was a teenager. She encouraged him to pursue singing, and he says he hasn’t ever forgiven her. Seriously, he loves opera. As he says, “Operatic performance encompasses the highest level of physical demands, historic and musical awareness, and artistic freedom. What’s not to like?”
Most people don’t know he trained as a choral conductor, and is a pretty good country singer who aspires to be the next George Jones. He could perform Gilbert and Sullivan all day, but if he were stranded on a desert island he would want the Fauré Requiem (and would want to conduct it!).
The biggest challenge in his career has been finding the right teacher, but he has: Nancy King!
David N. Williams will sing dual roles in our production: Benoit, the landlord, and Alcindoro, the hapless suitor of Musetta.
He says that during his freshman year in college, his voice teacher told him he had potential. But it wasn’t until he was assigned to sing the verismo aria, “Zaza piccolo zingara” from Leoncavallo’s Zaza that he got hooked on opera. He also enjoys the contact with colleagues that singing and teaching still bring him. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia from 1966-68 and had the unique experience of conducting choral music there to celebrate the Pope’s visit to South America.
His favorite aria to sing is Umberto Giordano’s “Nemico della Patria” from Andrea Chenier, and his favorite to hear is “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot, especially if Pavarotti is the artist.
The biggest challenge in his career was learning and performing Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca, but the hardest challenge was the role of Michele in Puccini’s Il Tabarro.