Choreography in Opera
Bernard Gotfryd: Opera, c. 1970 (Library of Congress)
We see emotional resonance in shapes, space, movement and rhythm, for example a triangle of conflict, a split-screen expression of two minds wrestling with the same dilemma or a rotating quintet enabling each vocal line to be momentarily spotlit and then absorbed back into its dense musical texture.
Choreographers have often had long performance experience as dancers, during which time they’ve continually excavated music for emotional motivations and visceral impulse. A dancer’s brutal training can help them to appreciate collaboration—they’re ‘can do’ team players and tend to be solution orientated rather than autocratic. They are often skilfully intuitive about the complex dynamics in a rehearsal room.
Opera can become static—sometimes a singer may need to be still because of the Olympian vocal challenges they are negotiating—but the stage story needs to remain vibrant. The metaphorical ball should remain in the air and movement-skilled directors are perfectly placed for that.