La Traviata, Parties, and Dancing.
By Traci Grant
Starting on January 18, the newly-renovated Capitol Theatre will once again be filled with the beautiful voices of the Utah Opera performers, the relaxing music from the Utah Symphony, and the magical set designs and costumes. What opera enthusiasts may not expect in this month’s performance of La Traviata is the dance performance midway through Act II.
Violetta is the main character in this tragic opera, part of the Parisian elite who throw and attend lavish parties. She falls in love with nobleman Alfredo Germont and is then coerced into leaving him and returning to her partying ways. It is here, just before the emotional and painful fight of the two lovers, that the dancing occurs.
Shaun Tritchler, Production Coordinator for USUO, is in charge of the choreography of this innovative dance. The choreography presents only a couple challenges for Tritchler. The stage will be set up as a gilded and posh room with tables, chairs and couches that the dancers will have to navigate. Also, there will be Utah Opera Chorus members in the dance who will be singing. The challenge is in the different ways that dancers and singers keep count. Tritchler says that translating dancer 8-count into singer speech can be confusing. “I have to tell the chorus members, ‘you should do this when you’re singing this word’, instead of saying ‘you should do this on this count’.”
Tritchler is excited to see how the audience will react to the dance. Opera goers are not used to dancing in the middle of a scene. I was surprised to learn from Tritchler that ballet and opera used to be a combined event. In France, it was required to have ballet in an opera performance. But nowadays, the two artistic genres are separate. “Audiences love to watch dance, others prefer to watch singing. Sometimes when they are confronted with dance in an opera, they may see it as a nice distraction. The director has done a great job to insert it as part of the story, part of the opera.”
Traditionally in this opera, the dancers are portrayed as artists that are invited to perform during the elaborate parties of wealth and prestige in 19th Century Paris. In order to make the scene feel like part of opera, Utah Opera’s version portrays the dancers as guests at the party who decide to suddenly dance to the music. Tritchler says, “It’s a lot of fun, like a nineteenth century flashmob.”