Christopher Busietta
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La Traviata
Violetta getting the party started.
Sophia Christine Brommer as Violetta.
Theater Augsburg 2012.
Who is Gaston in La Traviata

I first performed Verdi's classic opera, La Traviata, earlier this year in Theater Augsburg's production starring Sophia Christine Brommer as Violetta and Ji-Woon Kim as Alfredo. This opera holds a place in my heart because of the haunting overture, which I would put on my CD player whenever I felt like having the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

In fact, the whole first act is so exciting, from the opening chorus to the famous brindisi Libiamo to Violetta's famous 9-minute monologue E strano, that I was particularly excited to be doing the opera this year. One day I would love to play the shy, sensitive Alfredo, hell I've sung a fair chunk of it in concert already, but today I'm going to be talking about my character, Gaston.

Like many operas/musicals based on books, Les Misérables being a prime example, many characters have a lot more to be revealed under the surface. Gaston is one of them.

The Verdi opera and the Dumas novella

La Traviata is the story of Violetta Valery, a Parisian courtesan who lives for pleasure. She does not believe in love until her friend Gaston introduces her to a naive young man named Alfredo.

To fall in love as a courtesan is to sacrifice everything and there is no turning back once she realises she is fatally ill. She discovers love can conquer neither death, nor the society that will not accept her past and she is forced to make a terrible decision to protect the one she loves.

The opera is based on the novella La dame aux camélias (The lady of the Camélias) by Alexandre Dumas Fils. It is based on Dumas' real life relationship with the famous courtesan Marie Duplessis (1824-1847).

La Traviata
Violetta looking the worse for wear.
Sophia Christine Brommer as Violetta.
Theater Augsburg 2012.
La Traviata
The token gambling scene in La Traviata.
Christopher Busietta as Gaston (That's me!).
Theater Augsburg 2012.

Gaston - the party animal

The young viscount, Gaston, is a mutual friend of both Alfredo and Violetta. Alfredo, the narrator of the story desribes him as handsome, outgoing, popular with the ladies and rich. He is as much of a party boy as Violetta is a party girl. Therefore, Alfredo laments that Gaston is a much better match for Violetta than he is.

Gaston has no more than a casual interest in Violetta and is more interested to see what happens when he introduces the shy, awkward and inexperienced young Alfredo to his polar opposite, the extroverted and experienced party girl.

Although Gaston's character is a little bit murky in the opera, his escapades are more specific in Dumas' novella. Gaston has a fling with Violetta's friend Flora and even is mentioned to have made repeated attempts to seduce Violetta. Yet Violetta tells him they are too close for a casual liason and wants him to stay as a friend. Despite his suitability and availability, she is already intrigued by Alfredo.

Although these elements are not written directly into any spoken/sung dialogue in the opera, it is certainly more interesting to play it with that sort of personality. You should not be surprised to see Gaston playing cheeky jokes and flirting with the ladies... especially Flora.

So I present Gaston: a young, cheeky, attention-seeking, womanising party-animal viscount!

Links:
  1. Libretto (Deutsch | English)
  2. Opera's Wikipedia Page (English | Deutsch | Francais)
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