La traviata

Operas by Giuseppe Verdi
Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio (1839)
Un giorno di regno (1840)
Nabucco (1842)
I Lombardi alla prima crociata (1843)
Ernani (1844)
I due Foscari (1844)
Giovanna d'Arco (1845)
Alzira (1845)
Attila (1846)
Macbeth (1847)
I masnadieri (1847)
Jrusalem (1847)
Il corsaro (1848)
La battaglia di Legnano (1849)
Luisa Miller (1849)
Stiffelio (1850)
Rigoletto (1851)
Il trovatore (1853)
La traviata (1853)
Les vpres siciliennes (1855)
Simon Boccanegra (1857)
Aroldo (1857)
Un ballo in maschera (1859)
La forza del destino (1862)
Don Carlos (1867)
Aida (1871)
Otello (1887)
Falstaff (1893)
La traviata is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It takes as its basis the novel La dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas, fils, published in 1848. It was first performed at the Teatro la Fenice in Venice, on March 6, 1853. The title "La traviata" means literally The Woman Who Strayed, or perhaps more figuratively, The Fallen One. The original audience appears to have been puzzled by the fact that the opera had a contemporary setting.

However, the opera has become immensely popular and a staple of the standard operatic repertoire. It is third on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America[1], behind only Madama Butterfly and La bohème.

Roles

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, March 6, 1853[2]
(Conductor: - )
Violetta Valery, a courtesansopranoFanny Salvini-Donatelli
Alfredo GermonttenorLudovico Graziani
Giorgio Germont, his fatherbaritoneFelice Varesi
Flora Bervoixmezzo-sopranoSperanza Giuseppini
Annina, Violetta's maidsopranoCarlotta Berini
Gastone, Alfredo's friendtenorAngelo Zuliani
Barone DoupholbaritoneFrancesco Dragone
Marchese d'ObignybassArnaldo Silvestri
Dottore GrenvilbassAndrea Bellini
Giuseppe, Violetta's servanttenorG. Borsato
Flora's servantbassG. Tona
CommissionerbassAntonio Mazzini

Synopsis

A summary of the plot of La traviata is detailed below. [3]
Place: Paris and vicinity.
Time: about 1700. (Many modern producers of La traviata set the opera in the 19th century.)

Act I

The salon in Violetta's house

Violetta Valery, a famed courtesan, throws a lavish party at her Paris salon to celebrate her recovery from an illness. Gastone, a count, has brought with him his friend, the young nobleman Alfredo Germont, who has long adored Violetta from afar. While walking to the salon, Gastone tells Violetta that Alfredo loves her so much and, while she was ill, he came by her house every day. Alfredo joins them, admitting the truth of Gastone's remarks. Violetta replies to Alfredo, "I’m indebted to you".

The Baron waits not far from them to escort Violetta to the salon, but she walks to him saying, "You, Baron, never cared as much". The Baron replies, "I have just known you for a year". Violetta glares at Alfredo and says, "He just met me a minute ago!". At the salon, the Baron is asked to give a toast, but he refuses and the crowd turns to Alfredo (Alfredo, Violetta, chorus: Libiamo ne' lieti calici – "Drinking song").

From the next room, the orchestra begins to play and the guests move there to dance. Violetta feels dizzy and asks the guests to go ahead and to leave her to rest for a while to recover. The Baron leaves her alone. The guests dance in the next room, while Violetta looks at her face in her mirror. She looks pale. Alfredo enters and he expresses his concern for her fragile health and later declares his love for her (Alfredo, Violetta: Un di, felice, eterea – "The day I met you").

At first Violetta rejects him because his love means nothing to her. However, there is something about Alfredo that touches her heart. Alfredo is about to leave when she gives him a flower, telling him to return it when it has wilted. She promises to meet him the next day.

After the guests leave, Violetta wonders if Alfredo could actually be the one in her life (Violetta : Ah, fors'̬ lui Р"Perhaps he is the one"). But she concludes that she needs freedom to live her life (Violetta : Sempre libera Р"Ever free"). From off stage, Alfredo's voice is heard demanding that she accept his love.

Act II

Scene 1

Violetta ‘s country house outside Paris

Three months later, Alfredo and Violetta are living together in a peaceful country house outside Paris. Violetta has fallen in love with Alfredo and she has completely abandoned her former life. Alfredo sings of their happy life together (Alfredo: Di miei bollenti spiriti - "Wild my dream of ecstasy"). Annina, the maid, arrives from Paris, and, when questioned by Alfredo, she tells him that she went there to sell the horses, carriages and everything owned by Violetta to support their country lifestyle.

Alfredo is shocked to learn this and leaves for Paris immediately to settle matters himself. Violetta returns home and receives an invitation from her friend, Flora, inviting her to a party in Paris. Alfredo’s father, Germont, is announced and demands that, for the sake of his family,she break off her relationship with his son. He is reluctantly impressed by Violetta’s nobility, which is not what he expected from a courtesan. Germont reveals that Violetta’s relationship with Alfredo has threatened his daughter’s engagement (Germont: Pura siccome un angelo – "I have a daughter as pure as an angel") because of Violetta's reputation as a courtesan . While she says that she cannot break off her relationship with Alfredo because she loves him so much, Germont pleads with her for the sake of his family. With growing remorse in her heart, she finally agrees (Violetta, Germont : Dite alla giovine – "Say to this child of thine"). She bids farewell to Germont. Germont kisses her forehead in a gesture of gratitude for her kindness and sacrifice, before leaving her weeping alone.

Violetta gives a note to Annina to send to Flora as acceptance of the party invitation. While writing a farewell letter to Alfredo, he enters. She can barely control her sadness and tears; she tells him repeatedly of her unconditional love before rushing out and handing the farewell letter to her servant to give to Alfredo.

The servant gives the farewell letter to Alfredo. As soon as he finishes reading it, Germont comes in and attempts to comfort his son, reminding him of his family in Provence (Germont : Di Provenza il mar - "In Provence"). Alfredo suspects the Baron is behind his separation with Violetta and the party invitation, which he finds on the desk, strengthens his suspicions. He determines to confront Violetta at the party. Germont tries to stop Alfredo, but he rushes out.

Scene 2

Party at Flora’s house

At the party, the Marquis tells Flora that Violetta and Alfredo have separated. She calls for the entertainers to perform for the guests (Chorus: Noi siamo zingarelle - "We’re gypsies gay and youthful"); (Chorus: Di Madride noi siam mattadori – "We are bullfighters from Madrid"). Gastone and his friends join the matadors and sing (Gastone, chorus, dancers: E Piquillo, un bel gagliardo - "Twas Piquillo, so young and so daring").

Violetta arrives with Baron Douphol. They see Alfredo at the gambling table, and upon seeing them, Alfredo creates a big scene about his winning. The Baron feels annoyed. He goes to the gambling table and challenges him. Alfredo wins some large sums of money from the Baron until Floria announces that the supper is ready. Alfredo leaves with handfuls of money.

Everyone goes in to supper, but Violetta has asked Alfredo to see her. Fear that the Baron's anger will lead him to challenge Alfredo to a duel, she gently asks Alfredo to leave. Alfredo misunderstands her apprehension and demands that she admit that she loves the Baron. In grief, she does so. Her confession makes Alfredo furious and he calls the guests to witness what he has to say. Alfredo humiliates and denounces Violetta in front of the guests, and then throws his winnings at her for her "services" while they lived together (Questa donna conoscete?). She falls, fainting onto the floor. The guests reprimand Alfredo: "Leave at once, we despise you. You have insulted a noble lady".

In search of his son, Germont enters the hall. Knowing the real significance of the scene, he denounces his son's behavior (Germont, Alfredo, Violetta, chorus: Di sprezzo degno, se stesso rendo - "Worthy of contempt is the man").

Flora and the ladies attempt to persuade Violetta to leave the dining room, but, before doing so, Violetta turns to Alfredo and sings, Alfredo, Alfredo, di questo core non puoi comprendere tutto l’amore - "Alfredo, Alfredo, little canst thou fathom the love within my heart for thee".

Act III

In Violetta’s bedroom

Dr. Grenvil tells Annina that Violetta will not live long as her tuberculosis has worsened. Alone in her room, Violetta reads a letter sent by Alfredo’s father saying the Baron was only wounded in his duel with Alfredo. The letter also states that he has informed Alfredo of the sacrifice Violetta made for him and his sister; and that he is sending his son to see her as quickly as possible to ask for her forgiveness. But Violetta senses it is too late (Violetta: Addio del passato – "So closes my sad story").

Annina rushes in the room to tell Violetta of the arrival of Alfredo. The lovers are reunited. Alfredo suggests that they leave Paris (Alfredo, Violetta: Parigi, o cara , noi lasceremo – "Dearest, we’ll leave Paris" ).

But it is too late; she knows her time is up (Alfredo, Violetta: Gran Dio! morir si giovane - "O, God! to die so young"). The old Germont enters (Ah, Violetta) with the doctor. He regrets what he has done. Shortly after Violetta dies in Alfredo’s arms.

Selected recordings

Year Cast
(Violetta, Alfredo, Germont)
Conductor,
Opera House and Orchestra
Label
1955Maria Callas,
Giuseppe di Stefano,
Ettore Bastianini
Carlo Maria Giulini,
La Scala orchestra and chorus
Audio CD: EMI Classics
ASIN: B00000630Y
1958Maria Callas,
Alfredo Kraus,
Mario Sereni
Franco Ghione,
Teatro Nacional de São Carlos orchestra and chorus
Audio CD: EMI Classics
ASIN: B000002RY7
1962Joan Sutherland,
Carlo Bergonzi,
Robert Merrill
John Pritchard,
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino orchestra and chorus
Audio CD:Decca
ASIN: B000007OTV
1968Montserrat Caballé,
Carlo Bergonzi,
Sherrill Milnes
Georges Prêtre,
RCA Italiana Opera orchestra and chorus
Audio CD:RCA
ASIN: B000B5Y00U
1976Ileana Cotrubas,
Plácido Domingo,
Sherrill Milnes
Carlos Kleiber,
Bayerische Staatsoper orchestra and chorus
Audio CD: Deutsche Grammophon
ASIN: B000001GG4
1979Joan Sutherland,
Luciano Pavarotti,
Matteo Manuguerra
Richard Bonynge,
National Philharmonic orchestra and chorus
Audio CD: Decca
ASIN: B0000041Y9
1982Teresa Stratas,
Plácido Domingo,
Cornell MacNeil
James Levine
Metropolitan Opera orchestra and chorus
DVD: Filmed version, Universal Studios
Cat: 0 2519-20326-2 2
1992Cheryl Studer,
Luciano Pavarotti,
Juan Pons
James Levine
Metropolitan Opera orchestra and chorus
Audio CD: Deutsche Grammophon
ASIN: B000001GGR
1992Kiri Te Kanawa,
Alfredo Kraus,
Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Zubin Mehta,
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino orchestra and chorus
Audio CD:Polygram Records
ASIN: B000004163


Note: "Cat:" is short for catalogue number by the label company; "ASIN" is amazon.com product reference number.

Films and other versions

  • Various versions of the movie Camille were also adapted from the same novel.
  • La traviata is the opera featured in the 1990 romantic comedy Pretty Woman starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. The stories of the opera and film have obvious parallels, as both involve respectable men who fall in love with prostitutes and wrestle with the challenges of "rescuing" the women from their profession.
  • The film Moulin Rouge! has some of the same plot elements as "La Traviata", as well as some from La bohème.

Notes

1. ^ OPERA America's "The Top 20" list of most-performed operas
2. ^ List of singers taken from Budden, Julian: The Operas of Verdi (Cassell), vol 2, p. 114.
3. ^ The plot description is taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.

References

  • The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.

External links

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