The very first time I did La Traviata, I was directed by Marta Domingo at Los Angeles Opera, and the choreographer was Peggy Hickey.
It was simply the grandest of experiences. Gorgeous...beautiful...very attractive, with chandeliers and grand staircase. Simply stunning.
I was so delighted to be able to be invited to do La Traviata with First Coast Opera and SO HAPPY to be DANCING ONSTAGE again after this pandemic pause. And to have a chance to work with a woman director, just like I had with Marta when I did Traviata the first time. Our director Helena Binder has an extensive resume as an actor as a director and as a choreographer. I couldn't wait!:)
But...wait a second
...not so fast
...don't ask me how...but my cohort and I were asked to come up with our own dance with the Matador.
Neither of us saw this coming.
Neither of us were prepared with any planned choreography...and to tell the truth, I am not a choreographer. I am someone who dances. Big difference.
Soooo...off we went into the second rehearsal room to work this out...a little stunned. My partner in dance Christina Santos luckily has done alot of choreography so, without a mirror in sight...(dancers love and need mirrors - if you don't believe me? Just drop into any dance studio. There they are, floor-to-ceiling) Especially if you are moving together in the same exact moment...and we, under our director's direction, "put something together." We come into the main room while the principals take a break and show the initial concept.
Wellllllll...our director says..." We are blocking the matador too much"...
AGAIN...we go back into the second rehearsal room, and everything Christina choreographed the first time she rechoreographed. AGAIN. Yes, all this in the same day. We come out and show it to our director.
AGAIN she says: "Too much focus taken away from The Matador'. So, at this point, dear reader, you may ask yourself: "Why didn't she just choreograph the damn dance herself, since she had the understanding of what she wanted and we obviously did not?" Now remember, we are rehearing an opera and in a million years I would never expect to hear the following "Pretend he's Wayne Newton and you are his back-up dancers."
I couldn't make this up if I tried.
I thought "Is that what she thinks of my background? That I am some flashy blonde who worked Las Vegas? And she is trying to reach my level of understanding?
So, while we are ALL on a break...I write her a simple little note. It stated: "Can YOU please take over the choreography?"
Nothing was mentioned.
We forge ahead.
Off we went to make a 3rd try to make our Matador our Wayne Newton and be the best backup dancers without taking away from his moment.
Now the opera singer playing the Matador...a terrific guy...good voice....but more of Amahl and The Night Visitors then this flashy dramatic baritone...so though we only had this ONE moment in the sun we rehearsed over and over and OVER not because we as in Christina and I weren't together but to get our Matador comfortable and strong in his movements.
I present to you the rehearsal from that day we tried three different attempts before finding success with the choreography and you will see our director directing our matador to emulate her arms.
And then you will see the finished number live onstage.
When all was said and done our director Helena Binder stylized a beautiful three act wonder of this legendary opera.
She put in such detail to the costumer and the set designer and principals. Why she didn't give our three minute and three second moment some thought and creativity I'll never know...but WE with my cohort's tenacity managed to create something that turned out to be an audience favorite and something even Wayne Newton would have been proud to be part of.