The woman led astray
October 28 and 30, 2005
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Opera in three acts based on La Dame aux
Camélias by Alexander Dumas
Premiere 6th March 1853, Teatro La Fenice,
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
projected above the stage
Poster Design by
Graphic Designer Billings
(For biographies and additional info, please see
the links below)
Violetta Valéry, Soprano, a courtesan
Flora Bervoix, Mezzo-Soprano, her friend
Annina, Soprano, Violetta's maid
Alfredo Gérmont, Tenor, Violetta's lover
Giorgio Gérmont, Baritone, his father
Jan Michael Kliewer
Gastone, Tenor, Viscount de Letorières,
Baron Douphol, Baritone, Violetta's protector
Marquis d'Obigny, Bass, Flora's protector
Dr. Grenvil, Bass, Violetta’s Physician
Flora’s Servant & the Messenger, Tenor
A commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, friends of
Violetta and Flora, matadors, picadors and
gypsies, servants of Violetta and Flora, and
Conductor: Timm Rolek
Production & Stage Director: Douglas Nagel
Sets: Stivanello of New York
Costumes: Utah Opera & Symphony
Sets and costumes underwritten by a gift of
Stage Manager, Amy Logan
Lighting Designer: Alex Heyneman
Rimrock Opera Chorus: Amy Logan and Kevin
Schweigert, Chorus Masters
Jessikay Bennion, Dan Caplinger, Kelly Deiling,
Nancy Downing, Karen Evanson, Steven Green,
Shirley Herman, Sarah Hessler, Penni Kelley, Jon
Kohn, Scott Martinez, Alyson Miller, Ashley
Miller, Karen Postema, Brianne Roney, Kirsten
Rose, Bret Weston, Kevin Schweigert, Justine
Summers, Jacob Troyer
Sandi Rabas, Rehearsal Pianist
Waiters: Marks Raschkow & Patrick Brown
Other Biographical Information
Timm Rolek, Conductor
Douglas Nagel, Director
The opera was first performed in Venice on March
6, 1853. The first audience laughed all the way
through the last act. Verdi wrote "(it) was a
fiasco; it is useless to ask why, it is a fiasco
and that is that."
The first successful performance was a year
later. Since then La Traviata has become one of
the most performed and popular operas ever.
On May 25, 1858, three different opera companies
performed it at the same time, in three
different theaters in London--Her Majesty's,
Covent Garden, and Drury Lane.
"La Traviata" means "the woman who has been led
The opera is based on the play La Dame aux
camelias (1852) by Alexander Dumas the younger,
which he adapted from his autobiographical novel
of the same name (1848).
The real-life original of Violetta Valery was
Marie Duplessis, who died aged twenty-three. In
Dumas's novel and play, she is called Marguerite
Verdi wanted the opera in contemporary dress,
but because this was considered too shocking it
was originally set in the era of Louis XIV
(1638-1715). The first 'modern' production (i.e.
set in the 1850's) was not until 1906.
Verdi himself was not disturbed by sex outside
marriage. He was with Guiseppina Strepponi for
twelve years before he married her in 1859. She
already had two children by another partner.
Tuberculosis (also called consumption) is still
one of the world's most serious diseases even
though an antibiotic (streptomycin) was
developed in 1944. In England and Wales in 1988
there were 5164 cases, and 478 deaths.
'La Traviata:' Husband-wife team take leads in
Rimrock Opera's latest
Christina Major and
Joseph Muir in a scene from 'La Traviata.' JAMES
WOODCOCK/Gazette Staff Joseph Muir, left, and
Jan Michael Kliewer rehearse a scene from 'La
Traviata.' Muir, a tenor from Southern
California, will be performing the lead role of
Alfredo opposite his wife, Texas native
Christina Major, who portrays Parisian courtesan
Violetta. JAMES WOODCOCK/Gazette Staff Maestro
Timm Rolek, left, and Rimrock Opera Company
artistic director Doug Nagel go over music for
'La Traviata.' Rolek, visiting from the
Sacramento Opera, will conduct a 30-piece
orchestra. JAMES WOODCOCK/Gazette Staff Kliewer
and Major rehearse a scene from the opera, which
opens next week.
WEBB Of The Gazette Staff | Posted: Thursday,
October 20, 2005 11:00 pm
treat - a husband-and-wife opera team playing
lovers - will bring the passion up a notch in
the Rimrock Opera Company's season opener
Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata” next week at the
Alberta Bair Theater.
which translates to "The Woman Led Astray," will
be sung in Italian with English supertitles.
Performances include a school show Wednesday
morning and performances Friday, Oct. 28, and
Sunday, Oct. 30.
Soprano Christina Major
plays the Parisian courtesan Violetta and her
husband, tenor Joseph Muir, plays her lover
Alfredo who is determined to possess her at any
risk. Major, a Texas native, is known for her
versatile, lyric soprano style and has performed
in 10 complete operas. Muir, originally from
Southern California, has performed in nine
operas and has been lauded for his lyrical
They arrived in Billings last
week for a 10-day rehearsal schedule, under the
artistic direction of Douglas Nagel and musical
direction of Timm Rolek of the Sacramento Opera.
At rehearsal last Friday, the couple, who have
been married five years, discussed the opera
life and separating their off-stage romance with
their on-stage performance.
"When we first
got together we made an agreement to put our
relationship first,” Muir said. "She's Christina
my wife before she's Christina the soprano. I'm
the husband first, instead of the tenor.”
Muir said he's often studying one opera
while performing in another.
"You have to
develop a good memory,” he said.
said she likes to buy a CD of the full
production and study the work with full
orchestration to help her prepare for her roles.
"A lot of the operas were written by people
who have been dead 100 or 150 years,” Major
said. "There are traditions with them that
aren't written in the score, but have been
passed down. For example, in this opera it's the
high E flat in the aria, which gets so crazy and
excited. Tradition is that if the soprano has a
high E flat, which I do, the audience expects
it. The composers didn't really expect to write
every note, they expected the performers to add
"La Traviata,” one of three
so-called "Verdi's Potboilers," is among the 10
most popular operas on the boards today. The
story was recounted in the classic movie
"Camille” starring Greta Garbo, and later
modernized in "Pretty Woman" with Julia Roberts
and "Moulin Rouge" with Nicole Kidman.
Major and Muir are making their debut with
Rimrock Opera Company after Muir met Nagel in
1999. Major's repertoire includes Mozart,
Rossini, Handel, Gounod, Stravinski, Bizet and
Verdi. Muir has sung with Opera San Jose,
Seattle Opera and Santa Fe Opera. The couple
just finished performing "The Barber of Seville”
in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and after the opera
here closes, they plan to complete their move to
New York City to be closer to the opera
Both in their mid-20s, the
couple studied opera at San Jose State
University where they met on the stage.
"I was in the chorus, she was the lead,” Muir
said. "It was pretty much love at first sight.”
In the role of Giorgio Germont, Alfredo's
high-society father, is Jan Michael Kliewer of
Powell, Wyo., who sang the toreador Escamillo in
Bizet's "Carmen" for Rimrock Opera, as well as
Masetto in "Don Giovanni" and Dr. Harding in the
world premiere of "Nosferatu."
conduct a 30-piece orchestra in the pit, and a
solid supporting cast of local and regional
singers will bring Verdi's music to life, framed
by sets from Stivanello of New York, 1850s Paris
costumes from Utah Opera, and lighting design by
Student falls in love with 'La Traviata'
JACI WEBB Of The Gazette Staff | Posted:
Wednesday, October 26, 2005 11:00 pm
When Tay Stone watched soprano Christina Major
collapse on stage during Rimrock Opera Company's
school show of "La Traviata” Wednesday, the
Roberts eighth-grader thought it was wonderful.
It was Stone's first taste of opera, and she
was struck with the dramatic performance.
was classic opera - forbidden love, an angry
father and a death scene,” Stone said.
More than 200 area students watched
Acts II and III of the Giuseppe Verdi opera in
Billings, which will be presented in full Friday
at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Alberta
Bair Theater. Stone, who attended the show with
24 other students from Roberts, said she heard
some kids laughing because they thought "the
loud singing was funny," but she thought it was
The Italian opera tells
the story of a beautiful Parisian courtesan,
Violetta, who falls in love with Alfredo, who is
from an established family that is disgraced by
their relationship. Major's real-life husband
Joseph Muir plays Alfredo and Jan Michael
Kliewer of Powell, Wyo., plays Alfredo's father.
Rimrock Opera Company artistic director Doug
Nagel said he didn't have the opportunity to see
a live opera when he was growing up in Billings
in the 1970s. That's part of the reason he
returned to his hometown to found the opera
company and why he pushes so hard for the school
shows, where students and community members can
see part of the opera for $5.
opera I saw, I was in - "Magic Flute” - when I
was a student at Rocky Mountain College,” Nagel
Looking for inspiration
Teachers helped prepare students for the
opera using a study guide created by the opera
company and distributed through the Alberta Bair
Theater's education department.
students studied the opera on Tuesday before
seeing the performance. Their music teacher,
Julie Jones, said she is revamping the music
program after it was cut from the budget a year
and a half ago. All 12 members of the Roberts
eighth-grade class and 13 band students were
bussed in for the show. They plan to put on a
stage show in the spring and were looking for
inspiration at Wednesday's matinee.
Thomas, a freshman who sings and plays tenor
saxophone at Roberts High School, said he likes
to perform but isn't sure he could sing opera.
He was last on stage a couple of years ago in
"Grease,” which was presented with help from the
Roberts Parents for Performing Arts.
liked the party scene best in this opera where
everybody was singing at the same time,” Thomas
Another Roberts freshman, Oliver
Elver, said he was impressed with the vocalists,
particularly Kliewer, who teaches music at
Northwest College in Powell, Wyo.
"He had a
great booming voice,” said Elver, who has a part
in the chorus of Billings Studio Theater's
The show was a dress rehearsal
for the ROC production so students got a chance
to see a set change and an on-stage wig change.
The backdrops were rented from New York City and
painted in Italy, Nagel told the audience. As
the stage crew scurried to change the scene from
a country garden to an elegant party, Nagel took
questions from the audience.
wondered how the company assembles props, why
most operas are sung in foreign languages, and
whether local vocalists perform with ROC.
Nagel said opera board members help assemble
props to help the company capture the look of
the 1500s, which is when the opera was set.
"We have really great board members who open
their homes to us and allow us to scavenge
through their houses and find what we want,”
Nagel said. "We're in Billings, Montana, and we
don't always have a lot of period pieces.”
As for the language, Nagel pointed out that
most operas are written in German, French and
Italian so the company shows the English
translation above the stage. The opera company
mixes local talent with out-of-town performers.
"The kids were very attentive, and they
asked good questions,” said ABT school show
coordinator Mary Helgeson.
attending the matinee performance were from St.
Francis Upper School, COR Enterprises, Billings
Educational Academy, Fromberg High School,
Trinity Lutheran School, and home school
students and educators.
JAMES WOODCOCK/Gazette Staff
Joseph Muir, who plays the lead with his wife,
Christina Major, is surrounded on stage by cast
members in elaborate gowns during a scene from
'La Traviata' Wednesday morning.
JACI WEBB Of The Gazette Staff The Billings
Gazette | Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2005
An aria to remember
does opera have to be so tragic?
Violetta collapses in her death scene in "La
Traviata,” she hits her loveliest note and then
dies, but not of a broken heart. As an audience
member, I was the one who was heart-broken. I
will probably never again hear Christina Major's
impressively pure soprano voice - at least not
on a Billings stage.
The Texas native and
her husband, Joseph Muir, who played her
on-stage lover Alfredo, are on a fast-track in
the opera world. After the show closed last
Sunday, they planned to continue their move to
New York City where they can be closer to the
opera industry. I wish them luck because they
are both talented, young and passionate about
The poignant story follows the fate of
the two lovers, pulled apart by Alfredo's father
Giorgio Germont, played with such intensity by
Powell, Wyo., music professor Jan Michael
Kliewer. "Moulin Rouge” is based on the story.
Fortunately for us, Kliewer will be back to
perform again and again with the Rimrock Opera
Company and we can continue to follow his
progress. He debuted in the "Merry Widow” and
returned for roles in "Carmen” and "Nosferatu.”
He blossomed in this latest role, partially
because it had such a broad range of emotion.
This was a prime role for a polished baritone
like Kliewer and he carried it off with great
Bravo to Rimrock Opera Company's
artistic director Douglas Nagel for his vision
in finding talented local vocalists and
impressive young vocalists on the national scene
who are on their way up.
Rimrock Opera Company. All rights