nugget_doudou.jpg Dou-Dou Huang
Les Contes d'Hoffmann—Bartlett Sher’s new production
premieres December 3.

“When I work as a choreographer in a dance company, my focus is ‘dance’ itself. But in an opera, the plot comes first. I made my Met debut choreographing and dancing in the world premiere of Tan Dun’s The First Emperor, and it had a giant staircase on the stage. For Hoffmann there’s a raked stage. So I created dances that fit naturally in the spaces provided. When working with singers, the first thing I consider is not to affect their vocal production. During the preparation of Hoffmann [director] Bart Sher sent me his ideas from New York and I worked through them with dancers in Shanghai and sent him videos to look at what I had done.”

 nugget_Ratmansky.JPG Alexei Ratmansky
Aida—Sonja Frisell’s production was revived in October.

“In an opera, the composer can use dance to feature the orchestra in a more symphonic way. Choreographers like Petipa, Fokine, Balanchine, or recently Mark Morris, have created great opera ballets. It’s wonderful to be part of that tradition. I made my Met debut creating new dances for an existing production of Aida. The style of the production was set, but I was free to do what I felt needed to be done. One of the numbers comes right after the triumphal march. It’s a victory celebration, with an ecstatic flavor but a religious sense.”

 nugget_wheeldon.jpg Christopher Wheeldon
Carmen—Richard Eyre’s new production premieres
on New Year’s Eve.

“Opera gave me my first opportunity on stage! At the age of eight I was in a dance scene in Rigoletto at Covent Garden. In an opera, dance can be pure entertainment, like a dance at a party, or it can be integral to the storyline. You can’t have a Salome without a dance of the seven veils. In Carmen we’ll be using the music for the entr’actes in a slightly unusual way. They will be danced and tell a story that parallels Carmen’s. A favorite of mine is the music that opens Act III. This is one of the most beautiful passages that Bizet ever wrote, and it works extremely well for dance.”

—Charles Sheek

This feature was first published online and in the Met's Playbill in December 2009.