Thursday, October 21, 2010

You Light Up My Opera

When Laurie Peterson started with Opera Colorado, she expected to fill her days with grantwriting and meetings with foundations.

She didn’t expect to choreograph scenes in an opera.

But the staff of Opera Colorado have many hidden talents. When we did The Pearl Fishers, Group Sales Coordinator Ben Davis served as a super. And this year, Peterson worked with the Young Artists as they learned the music and staging for our touring production of Hansel & Gretel.

“One of the scenes I worked with them on takes place very early in the opera,” explained Peterson. “Hansel and Gretel are supposed to be mending socks, but Hansel doesn’t want to. Gretel decides to teach him to dance, and the two end up making a mess of the room."

Peterson and Cherity Koepke, the Young Artists Director, discussed the choreography and what Koepke hoped to accomplish. Koepke, along with Assistant Director Emilie Elmore, both agreed they wanted a scene that was funny and entertaining, but ultimately ended with a messy room.

Peterson worked with soprano Christie Hageman (Gretel) and mezzo-soprano Julia Tobiska (Hansel), who were very flexible and willing to try something new. She asked accompanist Steven Aguiló-Arbues to play the music, then had the singers sing along a second time.

“I didn’t want to create a lot of choreography without working with the singers first. You have to take people and their ability levels into account, as well as the size of the set and any props that might be around.”

Peterson, who was a principal dancer for Concert Ballet of Virginia, danced all through college and choreographed for American College Dance Festival. She has taught dance at many levels and styles, including classical ballet, modern, lyrical jazz, and musical theatre.

“Dance is my true passion,” said Peterson. “I’ve been dancing and choreographing in my head for years, even as a little girl. There have been times while driving that a great song comes on and I miss my exit because I’m thinking about dance.”

Ciao for now!

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