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Kennedy Center's La Boheme Showcases Acclaimed Albanian Tenor

  • Laura Konda

One of the most famous and beloved operas of all time - Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme - is once again thrilling audiences in a new production at Washington's Kennedy Center - featuring the acclaimed young Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu in the lead role of Rodolfo.

La Boheme is a classic story of love, set in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 19th century. Its characters are primarily young artists who have chosen to live a "Bohemian" lifestyle, living and acting free of regard for conventional rules and practices.

Rodolfo, performed by tenor Saimir Pirgu, is a young poet full of inspiration and love for life. He shares a room with three artist friends and falls for a beautiful and simple girl, named Mimi.

Pirgu says it’s a perfect role for him.

“Rodolfo is one of the most beautiful roles I have ever done, and it offers a great opportunity to perform artistically, because the role permits this, and in another case you can sing it very well; Puccini’s music is so beautiful to sing. I am very happy that I can do this,” says Pirgu.

Albanian-born Pirgu now lives in Italy. He has amazed audiences and critics in the world's major music capitals.

In a career just barely a decade old, he has been seen and heard on illustrious stages in Vienna, London, Milan, Zurich, New York and Los Angeles - in an array of lyric tenor roles.

Pirgu rose to prominance quickly, despite the limitations of having grown up in Albania -- at the time a highly-restrictive Communist country.

He began studying music at the age of seven, and first became a violinist. He was inspired to focus on opera after watching a rare live TV broadcast of a performance of The Three Tenors, Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and José Carreras.

The young musician left his native Albania at the age of nineteen to further his vocal studies in Italy. But today, through his music, he has become a passionate ambassador for his native country.

American soprano Corinne Winters sings the role of Mimi in La Boheme. She and Pirgu play lovers - who are torn apart by illness and death.

It’s quite a feat to do it right, says Pirgu.

“Of course, the music of Puccini is very difficult, you need to have the special vocality, musicality to sing it well. It's not easy to sing an opera,” says he.

And Pirgu has both the vocality and musicality. Famed tenor Placido Domingo once called his technique "superb."

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