La Fanciulla del West
What: Opera Omaha production
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.
Tickets: $19 to $99
Info: ticketomaha.com or 402-345-0606
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In “La Fanciulla del West,” soprano Lee Bisset plays a barkeep who becomes a mother figure to a bunch of miners in 1850s California.
When she’s done with rehearsals for the Opera Omaha show, she goes back to her hotel and assumes the role of mom to Torben, her 6-month-old son. He’s been on the road with Bisset — who’s based in Scotland — since he was 6 weeks old.
Bisset plays Minnie, the lead role in “Fanciulla,” also known as “The Girl of the Golden West,” premiering Friday at the Orpheum Theater.
Minnie nurtures the men who have traveled across the country to seek their fortune in the waning days of the Gold Rush.
Bisset is accustomed to the role of nurturer — she uses rehearsal breaks to breastfeed her son.
When she found out she was pregnant, she said, she and her husband immediately started to plan how they could fit the child into their schedules. He’s also a freelance musician, a conductor who’s currently in Italy.
They decided she would take the baby with her and either her husband or her mother would come along to help. Her husband was in Omaha for about two weeks before he had to leave, and mom flew in from Scotland to replace him.
Bisset said it’s been an interesting journey. She’s no longer able to focus solely on work, coming home from rehearsal and reviewing the day, writing on her score and coming up with questions.
But while that’s not perfect, she said, it’s not all bad: “It stops me obsessing. I get a proper break, and I’m more relaxed.”
Motherhood also taught her a lesson about work: “I used to think the most important thing for an opera singer is sleep,” she said, laughing. “Now I know that it’s not.”
Juggling opera and baby is worth it, especially for a role like Minnie in an opera with plenty of rough edges, guns and bar fights.
“She has the best entrance for any heroine in opera — she breaks up a fight firing her gun,” Bisset said. “She makes me think of Wendy in ‘Peter Pan.’ The men all love her. She sits them down and teaches them the Bible. She’s the glue in their world.”