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Datebook: MIOpera Showcases 'La Traviata' On Film

MIOpera gives a Bloomington Normal flair to a film of the classic opera La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi.
MIOpera gives a Bloomington-Normal flair to a film of the classic opera, "La Traviata," by Giuseppe Verdi.

MIOpera had great success earlier this year with a live production of "The Barber of Seville," a classic comic opera by Gioachino Rossini. Now, the company that brings a sometimes hard-to-find artform to Bloomington-Normal is putting on Guiseppe Verdi's "La Traviata," a very different work.

“Traditionally, opera has been seen as an older person’s art. I think that’s why people are unsure to go," said MIOpera artistic director Tracy Koch. "I think that if the venues go to the lengths to make everybody feel welcome and secure and have precautions, sanitizing the theater, just knowing that then, that gives them that extra security to want to come back to the theater. It’s not just the opera world. It’s Broadway, it’s all the different genres of theater, just regular straight plays. Everybody needs to feel secure going back into the theater, so we’re hoping to make them feel that way.”

Company director John Koch said MIOpera's film production of "La Traviata" by Giuseppe Verdi will premiere at the Normal Theater on Sept. 29 and be shown outdoors Oct. 1 at Ewing Manor.

During the height of the pandemic, MIOpera was unable to produce live shows and turned to filmed showcases of roles, and scene studies edited together as full operas and posted on YouTube. Tracy Koch said that experience made them ambitious to try a full film shot on location in Bloomington-Normal. She said they chose Ewing Manor in Bloomington as the venue for the backdrop to the tragic love story.

“You’re going to be immersed in not only this opera and the music and the story, but the history of Bloomington-Normal. I’m incorporating that into the movie,” said Tracy Koch.

Tracy Koch said "La Traviata," a sweeping love story, is a complete contrast to "The Barber of Seville."

"La Traviata" is about a woman who lives a lifestyle that’s not accepted, and she falls in love with Alfredo, who her family does not approve. She is, what we would call an escort today," said John Koch.

John Koch said as European society transitioned from the comic period of "opera buffa" in the early part of the 1800s, the subject matter became more serious, and so did the music. There was a higher presence of realism in Verdi and what some call, "verismo," from an Italian literary movement of the same name, he said.

Tracy Koch said opera is art that is accessible for everyone, and there is something for every audience member in the new production.

"You like music? You like signing? You like dance? You like visual art? It’s all in that. Opera is all encompassing. There’s orchestra music. There’s something for everybody here. All of the subject matter is universal, and everybody will understand it. So, I think that everybody should open their minds, especially after COVID-19 now getting back to live performances. People are just dying for theater, and opera is just great theater.”

Tracy and John Koch, who are married, said MIOpera is taking as many precautions as possible to make opera and theater a safe and secure environment for audiences.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.