Meet the Mimì’s: La Bohème’s Nicole Cabell & Miriam Khalil
Why have just one Mimì, when you can have two? This May, we’re thrilled to have both soprano Nicole Cabell (left) and soprano Miriam Khalil (right) joining us onstage for our production of the timeless romance, La Bohème. Both ladies were kind enough to sit down with us to answer a few questions about themselves and share what it’s like to tackle this most iconic of roles:
Where’s home for you?
Nicole Cabell: I currently live in Chicago, Illinois, but I am from Ventura, California.
Miriam Khalil: I live in Toronto, Canada with my husband and three-year-old son.
Describe Mimì in three words.
NC: Clever, passionate, and lonely.
MK: Honest, warm, and courageous.
List five things that you can’t live without when you’re away from home.
NC: My computer, yoga mat, wine, noise cancelling headphones, and herbal teas.
MK: Tea, travel mug, a good book, running shoes, and my phone.
What is your history with this role?
NC: I’ve sung Mimì at the Paris Opera and at Michigan Opera Theatre, and I’ve sung Musetta more times than I can count! Mimì was always my dream role, so I jump at any chance to perform her.
MK: La Bohème was the first full-length opera I ever saw. I loved it. It was also the first role I was hired to sing professionally after completing my last year of a young artist program. Prior to that I had covered roles and gone on, but this was the first role that was officially given to me.
Tell us about the first time you heard or saw an opera.
NC: The first time I heard an opera was on PBS. The opera was Madama Butterfly. Shortly after that I became obsessed with Kiri Te Kanawa’s Puccini album. I was drawn in by Te Kanawa’s vocal beauty more than the music, but of course with time I came to immensely appreciate both.
MK: The first time I heard opera was in my teens when I was given a Maria Callas CD. I remember playing the trio “Zitti zitti, piano piano” from The Barber of Seville over and over again and my amazement at the speed of the notes and the ease in which the singers sang.
How are you similar to your character in La Bohème?
NC: I often lead with the heart and can be very emotional. I value a somewhat simple life where the focus is on relationships, and I am also a loyal person.
MK: Both Mimì and I are shy but open, and we both sometimes babble when we get nervous.
What are the underlying elements of the story that audiences can relate to today?
NC: As with most aspects of life, love is the most important, driving force in life. La Bohème is all about love. Finding it, fighting for it, keeping it, and letting it go with the hope it will return. A genuine, heartfelt loving relationship is at the center of this opera, which always keeps audiences coming back for more. There is also something so appealing about the discovery of a new romance, which is so central to the first couple of acts. We can all relate to the fascination of each new discovery. But the relationship between Marcello and Musetta is also something most can relate to-the imperfection of incompatible personalities who can’t help but be drawn to each other regardless.
MK: La Bohème is a story about love, passion, heart break, and death. There’s something in there for everyone. I think audiences really relate to the characters the most, though. They are all real and unpretentious, self-deprecating, modest, and really care about each other.
What is your favorite thing about Paris?
MK: Walking through the streets of Paris is astounding. I love that you can walk from one landmark to another and stop in-between at the cutest patisseries to people watch.
NC: Paris is easily the most romantic city in the world, and while this is obviously appealing to most anybody, it is Paris’ living history that always draws me back. I’m a history buff and can never get enough of discovering the rich and complex stories of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
Nicole Cabell performs on May 6, 11, 14, 18, and 20. Miriam Khalil performs on May 13, 16, 19, and 21. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit mnopera.org/la-boheme.