In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

Behind the Scenes at La Traviata

Oct 7, 2014 2:23:00 PM
By BLO Staff


We are just a few days away from Opening Night of our 2014/15 Season opener, La Traviata!  The excitement is building as the set takes its place on stage, the performers get into costume, and we see the magic of opera coming to life before our very eyes.  Join us for a behind-the-scenes look at BLO's final preparations for the week with some inside information from our very own Set Designer, Julia Noulin-Mérat:

Alfredo, by Jacob A. Climer

When set designing an opera like La Traviata, that is such a staple of the opera repertoire, one has to reflect on why they want to create a new production of it as opposed to a rental.  La Traviata is one of those operatic staples that has become one of the most produced operas.  Its popularity is inherent: the music is absolutely gorgeous, the characters have a lot of room for depth, and the story is heartbreaking. 

Violetta, by Jacob A. Climer

I grew up reading George Sand, Alexandre Dumas (père and fils), Zola, and Flaubert.  La Dame aux Camélias, which is the inspiration for La Traviata, is a novel that is part of the French school curriculum.  I was therefore very familiar with the story, but I did not know the music as intimately.  I have always loved reading books about passionate women fighting conservative societies.  When I first met with Stage Director Chas Rader-Shieber, I found he had the same respect and fascination for this “fallen woman” as I do.  I was very excited by everything he had to tell me about her motivations and how he saw the story unfold.

From the beginning of our creative meetings, Chas explained he was not interested in the classic giant chandelier, red couch production aesthetic. Chas wanted a fresh take on it. Together with Costume Designer, Jacob A. Climer, and Lighting Designer, Mike Inwood, we developed a world that felt 1880-period, but relevant enough for a contemporary audience to connect with.

Flora, by Jacob A. Climer

"My inspirations come from many places. Period details are as
important as what walks the runway today. But what trumps all, is the
importance of clear and appropriate storytelling. With this production
we play a lot with dichotomy. Bound vs. free. Respectable vs.
reprehensible. Fantasy vs. reality. My goal is to address these
underlying conflicts of the piece with my design."

- Jacob A Climer, BLO Costume Designer

We played a lot with the proportion scale of the production. The characters are going to feel like their world is much bigger than they are. We also slightly changed the settings, so the drama first begins at a champagne party at Violetta’s, then outdoors in the countryside, then at a very late night 4:00am party in Paris, and back to Violetta’s empty apartment.

I cannot wait to share this production with you starting this Friday!  Here is a sneak peek of some of the process images for the production.

La Traviata set model, designed by Julia Noulin-Mérat


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