Soprano Corinne Winters arrived in Arizona early this month nursing the tail end of a cough, which is pretty ironic.
She sings the role of Mimi in Arizona Opera’s production of Puccini’s tragic opera “La Bohéme,” a character wracked with tuberculosis. She had a headstart on that nasty cough that eventually leads to Mimi’s tragic death.
Her cough has subsided, she said last week, but she still remembers how to fake it on stage to make the audience at Saturday’s performance at Tucson Music Hall believe she’s on her deathbed.
What she won’t be faking is her affection for her hero Rodolfo, sung by her real-life boyfriend of three years tenor Zach Borichevsky.
This is the second time the couple will appear with Arizona Opera. Last season, they were starstruck young lovers in Gounoud’s “Romeo et Juliette.”
“We had the bedroom scene in ‘Romeo et Juliette’ last year, and it was pretty evident at the first rehearsal that we were a couple because we were pretty comfortable being in those positions together, rolling around in the bed and all those things,” she said with a laugh. In the background, you could hear Borichevsky chuckle and imagine a blush pinking his cheeks.
“Most relationships as depicted in opera are narratives that start at the beginning before they knew each other and before they fell in love. So we have to dial it back for those scenes because we already are (in love),” he added. “We can’t be that comfortable. We have to be a little more awkward, and we have to act. Later on when we’re in the love stage, that’s a layer we don’t have to add on because we already love each other.”
The couple have been fortunate to be cast together in at least one opera a year for the past few years. Winters said they will return to Arizona Opera next season, although she wouldn’t say in what production. The company has not released next season’s lineup.
“They know that the chemistry on stage will be real,” said Winters, 30, who lives in Philadelphia with Borichevsky. “Although we aren’t specifically billed as one, we have in the past two years and for seasons to come at least one job together per year.”
“If Corinne gets a job and they are still looking for a tenor, she knows one to recommend. And if I get hired and they are still looking for a soprano, I know one to recommend,” added Borichevsky, 30.
In “La Bohéme,” the couple play starving artists who are willing to sacrifice a comfortable life for their art.
The real-life couple are far from starving for their art. Both have performed in some of the most prestigious opera houses in the country — Winters made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2011; Borichevsky includes Maestro Lorin Maazel’s Castleton Festival on his résumé — and have schedules that keep them away from home two-thirds of the year. Borichevsky calls the couple’s Philadelphia apartment the place “where our stuff lives.”
“We’re both pretty into the art and sharing it with people,” Winters said. “Hopefully that comes across.”
In addition to Saturday’s performance, the couple will perform a recital in SaddleBrooke tonight as part of Arizona Opera’s VoiceLab series.