Gabriella Reyes, whose voice the New York Times has described as “radiant and rich in vibrato,” makes her Washington National Opera debut as Mimì in Puccini’s La bohème. Often referred to as a rising star, she’s already made her debut at the Metropolitan, Glyndebourne, and Paris Opera companies, in addition to previous appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony.

I asked about her preparations and thoughts on this classic role as she makes her WNO debut here in Washington, what she’s looking forward to, and what she likes to sing when she isn’t singing opera.

John Banther: It’s your debut with the Washington National Opera! How has it been working with the WNO so far in preparing for this opera?

Gabriella Reyes

Gabriella Reyes: Working with WNO has been an absolute dream. I’m impressed by how all parts of the company work so efficiently, from the way the costume shop works seamlessly together as well as the rehearsal department and stage management. Everyone does their part so well, which allows me to be at peace to do my part to the best of my ability.

JB: What are some of the challenges that come with singing Mimì?

GR: The challenge with singing Mimì is allowing myself to find the balance of emotion and not getting too sentimental with her storytelling. I pour so much of myself into characters that I need to separate Mimì and myself to maintain the technicalities of singing while not sacrificing the authenticity of her emotions.

JB: Is there a particular moment or scene you look forward to every time in La bohème?

GR: I look forward to Act IV every night. I enjoy the vulnerability in the orchestration, which allows for the delicate tenderness between Rodolfo and Mimì in her final moments. It’s a moment where there are no more pretenses, just pure love between the two.

Tenor Kang Wang (left) plays Rodolfo; soprano Gabriella Reyes (right) plays Mimì
Tenor Kang Wang (left) plays Rodolfo; soprano Gabriella Reyes (right) plays Mimì. Photo Credit: Scott Suchman

JB: Have there been any past experiences that helped you prepare for this role?

GR: I debuted Mimì at the Glyndebourne Festival and tour last year. It gave me six months to get to know the character and dive deeper into her psyche. In total, I performed 18 La bohème performances, which helped prepare me for this debut here at WNO. I’ve also sung Musetta in 4 different productions of La bohème, which has allowed me to take in and watch my beautiful colleagues give their gorgeous renditions of Mimì. Vanessa Vasquez, Yaritza Véliz Maria Agresta, Daniella Talamantes, and Hrachuhí Bassénz have sung exquisite Mimìs. I have enjoyed watching and learning from these incredible women up close on stage with them.

JB: Are there any non-opera things you are looking forward to while in Washington DC?

GR: I want to experience the museums while on my off time. My father brought me as a child to all the museums, so it will be so much fun to revisit them as an adult.

JB: What are you singing when you aren’t singing opera? What other kinds of music do you enjoy listening to?

GR: When I’m not singing opera, you can catch me singing Latin American folk music like anything by Mercedes Sosa, Victor Jara, Silvio Rodríguez, and Natalia Lafourcade. Or you can also see me dancing through any of my mundane tasks to Willie Colón, Ismael Miranda, Los Titanes, or Frankie Ruiz, to name a few. Almost daily, I listen to my queen Selena Quintanilla.

Gabriella Reyes

JB: What advice would you give to other singers who are preparing for a major role or company debut?

GR: I would tell singers that part of getting ready for a significant debut includes finding a healthy balance of self-assurance while being open to new ideas. I’ve found that it’s essential to have a clear picture of your interpretation when you arrive for rehearsals. However, I want to add that this work is ultimately a collaboration of many artists. It’s crucial to have plasticity because the director or conductor will have their interpretation, and it’s up to you to remain flexible to create something together.

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