Anne Marcoline, assistant professor of literature, invited her students to attend Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata Oct. 28 presented by the Houston Grand Opera at the Resilience Theater.
Students from graduate level LITR 5831: “World Literature: “Desire, Disguise, and Death: Femininity and the Female Body in Nineteenth-Century French Literature,” and LITR 4350: “Masterpieces in Nineteenth-Century European Literature,” were in attendance to watch the opera.
“Whenever possible, I, and likewise the Literature Program faculty as a whole, try to make meaningful connections between course work and local cultural events,” Marcoline said. “These connections offer students a means to experience, in a structured and informed way, some of the extraordinary culture that Houston has to offer.”
As a result of Hurricane Harvey, UHCL students missed one week of class. This attendence to the opera made up for the day missed a the opera corresponded with the class reading of the 1848 novel “La Dame aux Camelias” by Alexandre Dumas fils.
Verdi’s La Traviata is a libretto that takes place in 19th Century Paris. The story follows the character Violetta, a courtesan, who falls in love with Alfredo, a young bourgeoise man. The two must hide their love from the public, including Alfredo’s father. The story ends with Violetta’s death from consumption.
“Attending a live performance of the Houston Grand Opera contributes to our study of a literary work by offering us, at once, a sense of intimacy or immediacy with the work and a chance to think critically about the performers’ interpretation of the text,” Marocline said.
Some of the students were hesitant at first since they had not attended an opera before, but ultimately found the experience enlightening.
“It was nice to see the differences between the text and the stage adaptation,” said Grant Law, literature major. “I think it was an interesting aspect of the class that allowed the students to see the various adaptions of literature.
Law mentioned that while the language barrier was difficult, but the subtitles on the screen above the stage helped the audience keep track of the plot.
While the story stayed similar to the text, the director took some liberties with the stage adaptation.
“I found that the director’s decision to have the carnival parade pass between rows in the audience increased this intimacy and lent a participatory feeling to the performance,” Marcoline said.
The students enjoyed the carnival scene because it was an added feature distant from the novel.
“I really enjoyed the costumes and the skeletal bull props,” said Ty Beverly, literature major.
After Hurricane Harvey hit, the opera was temporarily relocated from the Wortham’s Brown Theater, which seats about 2,400, to the Resilience Theater at the George R. Brown Convention Center, which seats about 1,700.
“We were able to sit much closer to the stage than we otherwise would have,” Marcoline said. “This closeness really did foster an intimate viewing experience despite the impact of the shape and immensity of the hall on the acoustics.”
Students said they enjoyed the opportunity to visit the opera for class.
“I really enjoyed the experience that Dr. Marcoline provided for the class,” Law said. “I really hope in the future more professors incorporate something like that in their classes.”
Marcoline expressed that she enjoyed attending the opera as well as seeing the students’ reactions, as some of the students had not attended the opera before.
“I enjoy discovering the opera through students’ eyes and feel ever more compelled to make this kind of experience an integral part my courses,” Marcoline said.
For more information on the literature program, visit the UHCL website. For more information on the Houston Grand Opera, visit the website here. The opera’s next production is The House without a Christmas Tree, Nov. 30 – Dec. 17.