Spotlight on Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts

La Bohème, December 5, 2015

By Daniel Clark Smith

Chorister Daniel Clark Smith joins an elite group of performers with his performance of Parpignol in La Bohème which marks his 100th solo performance at the Metropolitan Opera. The Performers Report, found on the Met’s website in the Archives, lists all company members who have performed 100 solo roles or more. Conductors, Dancers, and Singers are listed, with big names (Maestro James Levine at 2491) and small (dancer Linda Gelinas at 436, who just retired from the ballet last season) on the same formidable list. Daniel joins over 40 current and retired choristers in this distinction. You have seen the Chorus nightly as the townspeople and villagers in any given opera, but there are many opera roles that are actually performed by singers from the Chorus.

For example, did you know that La Bohème features not only the tragic love story of Mimì and Rodolfo, but there are four Chorus soloists playing small subplots in the opera? In the second Act's hustle and bustle, Parpignol sells toys to the Parisian children (one of them has his own solo, Parpignol-style), and the (uncredited) vendor sells “Prugne di Tours!”. In the third Act, soloists from the Chorus portray the Sergeant and Customs Officer manning Paris' city gate. Incidentally, these two soloists are also on the Performers Report — Jason Hendrix (Sergeant) at 101, and Joseph Turi (Officer) at 109.

Daniel’s house debut was as a Villager in Pagliacci, but he’s also been a Cenobite Monk in Thaïs, a Lackey in Der Rosenkavalier, and a soldier in Wozzeck. Out of 100 solos, Parpignol is his most performed role at 63 performances as of Saturday. He enjoys these brief opportunities to shine, but also to contribute to the ensemble of actors and singers on stage at the Metropolitan Opera each night.

Performing with Daniel each night in La Bohème is a donkey who pulls his toy cart. These photos are from the 2005-06 season, when our resident donkey wouldn't go anywhere without her newborn! Parpignol needs to be ready for anything, and so both donkeys accompanied him onstage (along with an animal handler). While W. C. Fields is often credited with the saying, “Never perform with children or animals,” Parpignol must be accommodating!