First time opera; first time opera singer – Rebecca Gulinello tell us about La Boheme in Sydney

The cafe in La Boheme by Opera Australia

Whether you’re an opera aficionado, or after a new experience for the first time, there’s one thing you can be sure of – you’re not alone!

People from all walks of life with all kinds of musical tastes gather on a nightly basis at the world famous Sydney Opera House – which is turning 50 this year! – to see operas by the world-renowned Opera Australia company, which this season is putting on La Boheme and giving even its singers a unique first experience!

New singer Rebecca Gulinello is making one of her preliminary performances in the production, taking to the stage after she only took to her first stage performance this January!

We got to speak with the highly talented, new singer about her performance as Mimi in La Boheme. Here’s how it went.

La Boheme man woman hug

How excited are you to be playing Mimi this season?

To be taking on this role for me is a great responsibility because this stage is my home base. Sydney Opera House is iconic and one of the most coveted stages any singer in the world wants the privilege of being able to sing on. It is where other greats have sung before me and all my incredible colleagues in the company currently perform. To believe in my own greatness and to trust in my voice, my hard work and efforts towards this debut has been the most challenging. The mindset of a singer is also similar to that of a professional athlete. You must maintain a sense of rigour, routine, mental fortitude and humility that enables one the grace to ride the very highs and very lows that come with the journey of this career. In saying all of this, I feel extremely privileged, excited, and proud especially as an Italian-Australian to be singing in my native language on that stage.

How do you find singing in the Sydney Opera House and how do you find the audience? 

It’s funny you should ask that, because my first time singing on the stage was in concert in January, and I felt completely blinded by the spotlight, which caught me a little off guard.. I couldn’t see the audience in the slightest! But in my debut last night, in the role of Mimì, I couldn’t have felt more at home. My voice felt like silk singing in the Joan Sutherland Theatre and the audience was so warm and receptive for my debut. The beautiful thing is also that all the stage crew backstage, the dressers, everyone behind the scenes, are all making the cogs work to make the transitions into every scene so seamless and comfortable for you, it’s such a beautiful community at this company. I’m so grateful for the support and trust that has been placed in developing and putting forward my talent.

How emotionally invested do you have to be in your character. How do you do it? 

Mimì definitely goes through a range of emotions throughout this opera. She’s essentially dying from the start but the love she discovers in Rodolfo, that first love, is what keeps her alive and beautiful until the end. The hardest part is not getting so invested emotionally that it affects the integrity of my voice. The most emotional part of developing this role was actually the roller coaster of emotions in the months leading up in preparation. By the time I’d arrived on stage, all my tears had been shed through my personal journey with the music and that just made for a more vulnerable and truthful delivery on stage. I was able to finally just let go and tell the story. I’ve had some conversations recently with my colleagues and we’ve all agreed that our job requires us to bring the most tortured part of our souls onto the stage; and just like Mimì I’ve experienced heart break, sickness and the intoxicating feeling of first love, so I’m able to easily access all of these emotions.

Mimi Opera Australia La Boheme singer

What are you most looking forward to in this season of OA? 

I’m most looking forward to having all my very proud family cheering me on in my final show on the 11th of March, all 15 or so of them are coming up from Melbourne to see me and celebrate this important milestone with me – nothing makes me happier than this! It also happens to be the closing show of this beloved Gale Edwards production which has been running for around 11 years now. I feel so honoured to be in the final closing show and a part of the history of this production.

What’s your favourite part of the production we should look out for. 

My favourite part of this production has to be act 4 – even though Mimì is dying, she’s so irrevocably happy that she’s able to reunite with her love Rodolfo and die in his presence. The hope and the beauty in the music is just heart-wrenchingly exquisite and I just adore singing the feelings of hope in her melodies because hope is something all humans can relate to. To be hopeful that there is always light, despite all of the darkness. 

For more and to get your tickets before the production ends on 11 March, head to the Opera Australia website