Violetta and Alfredo fall in love. Alfredo’s father Giorgio persuades Violetta to leave Alfredo because she is a courtesan. Alfredo is heartbroken. He finally finds out that Violetta is fatally sick and returns to her.
Violetta is a well known courtesan in Paris. Alfredo is in love with her. She brushes him off at first but soon cannot resist her feelings towards him. But the love story is short lived. Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, does not approve of their love because of her reputation as a courtesan. He asks her to leave him for the sake of his family. She reluctantly agrees. Alfredo is crushed. Not understanding why she’s left him, Alfredo becomes jealous and humiliates Violetta in front of her friends.
Time passes and Violetta has become very sick with tuberculosis. Alfredo’s father tells his son the truth about why Violetta left him. Alfredo immediately travels to see her but it’s too late. She has only hours left to live and dies in his arms.
"The Fallen Woman"
Opera in 3 acts
Sung in Italian
About 2 hours + intervals
19th century Paris
The salon in Violetta’s house
Violetta Valéry, a famous courtesan, is throwing a party at her house. The nobleman Gastone introduces Alfredo Germont to Violetta and tells her that Alfredo has asked about her every day during her recent illness. Violettas lover, Baron Douphol, is asked to give a toast but refuses. Instead Alfredo reluctantly agrees.
Olga’s fiancé Lensky, a young poet, and his friend Eugene Onegin arrive at the estate. Onegin is introduced to the Larina family and Tatyana is instantly smitten. Onegin is curious to why Lensky prefers Olga to Tatyana. Lensky is happy to see Olga, even though they’ve only been apart for a day. Onegin asks Tatyana if she’s bored of living in the countryside without any entertainment. He also explains that his uncle has died and therefore he’s received an inheritance of a nearby estate. Filippyevna concludes that Onegin has caught Tatyana’s fancy.
Violetta invites the guests to dance in the ballroom where the orchestra is playing. She feels dizzy and starts coughing. While the guests are dancing in the next room, she looks in the mirror to discover her pale face. Alfredo comes to her aid, worried abut her poor health. He declares his love but Violetta laughs at him. She rejects him but at the same time there is a fire of love that has been lit in her heart. She gives him one of her camellia flowers and tells him to come back when it has wilted.
When Alfredo has left she wonders if he could be the one. She quickly discards those thoughts telling herself that with her lifestyle she needs to be completely free and enjoy life’s pleasures. Alfredo is heard offstage singing about love.
Violetta’s country house outside Paris
Violetta has left her former life behind and for the last three months she’s been living in a peaceful country house together with Alfredo. He is very happy about their new lifestyle. Annina, Violetta’s Paris maid, comes to tell Alfredo that Violetta has had to sell most of her belongings to pay for their expenses. Alfredo is surprised and decides to leave for Paris to deal with the situation himself. He makes sure that Annina doesn’t tell Violetta of his plans.
Violetta enters from the garden. She receives a letter from Flora, a courtesan friend, inviting her to a party in Paris that evening. Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, arrives asking Violetta to end her relationship with Alfredo. Alfredo’s sister’s engagement is threatened because of Violetta’s reputation. Violetta loves Alfredo but is persuaded to give him up for the sake of his family.
Violetta gives Annina a note in which she accepts Flora’s invitation to the party. She then starts writing a farewell letter to Alfredo. Before she has time to finish the letter, he arrives. She tries to hold it together as much as possible telling him that she loves him before rushing off. Alfredo receives the farewell letter and is distraught to find out that Violetta has left him. Alfredo’s father arrives, trying to comfort him while also asking him to move back home. Alfredo suspects that Violetta is returning to her old lover, Baron Douphol. He finds the invitation from Flora and decides to confront Violetta at the party in Paris.
Flora’s salon in Paris
Flora is hosting a masquerade and is looking forward to seeing all the guests. She’s invited Violetta and Alfredo but her lover, Marquis d’Obigny, tells her that they’ve separated and that Violetta’s coming with her old lover Baron Douphol. The party is soon in full swing. Gastone and his friends are dressed as matadors and together they sing a song about a courageous toreador in love with an Andalusian maiden.
Alfredo is sitting at the gambling table when Violetta and the Baron arrive. He tells everyone that he’s taking the woman who left him with him home. The Baron is annoyed but goes to the table and joins Alfredo at the table. Alfredo wins a few rounds until Flora announces that supper is served.
Violetta has asked Alfredo to come see her and as the guests leave for dinner they get a chance to talk. Violetta wants him to leave the party because she’s worried that the Baron will challenge him to a duel. She fears that it could kill him saying that it would be her death too. Alfredo doubts if her concern is genuine and asks her if she loves the Baron. With great difficulty, she says that she does. Alfredo rages, calls in the guests and humiliates her in front of them. He throws his winnings at Violetta and she faints in Flora’s arms. The guests denounce his behaviour.
Alfredo’s father enters. Realising what has just happened he reproaches Alfredo for his actions. Violetta tries to explain to Alfredo that she still loves him and that he doesn’t know of the sacrifice she’s made. Alfredo is horrified and regrets his behaviour.
Violetta’s bedroom in Paris
Violetta is asleep in her bed and Annina is there to take care of her. Dr Grenvil comes to check on Violetta. She tells the doctor that although she’s suffering physically, she’s taken comfort in her religion. Before he leaves he tells Annina that Violetta only has a few hours to left to live. Violetta reads a letter from Alfredo’s father saying that the Baron was only wounded in the duel with Alfredo. He has also told Alfredo of her sacrifice. He writes that they will both visit her.
Annina tells Violetta that Alfredo is coming. The lovers are reunited. Alfredo wants them to leave Paris together but it’s too late. She’s dying. Alfredo’s father arrives with Dr Grenvil. He is filled with remorse. Violetta’s pain leaves her and she dies in Alfredo’s arms.
Violetta Valéry – Soprano (dramatic coloratura)
A wealthy courtesan, in love with Alfredo
Alfredo – Tenor (lyric)
A man in love with Violetta
Giorgio Germont – Baritone (lyric)
Flora Bervoix – Mezzo-soprano
Violetta’s courtesan friend
Annina - Soprano
Gastone de Letorières - Tenor
Baron Douphol - Baritone
Marquis d’Obigny - Bass
Dr Grenvil – Bass
Giuseppe - Tenor
Flora’s servant - bass
Commissioner – Bass
Place of birth: Le Roncole, Italy
Place of death: Milan, Italy
Verdi is one of our most beloved opera composers with hits like Rigoletto, Aida and Falstaff. He was a very productive composer, writing nearly 30 operas spanning from 1839 to 1893.
In his twenties tragic events unfolded when Verdi lost his two children in infancy and shortly thereafter his first wife. He remarried years later to the renowned soprano Giuseppina Strepponi who became his life companion.
Verdi is known for modernising Italian opera by writing long passages of through-composed music and unifying acts for a more continuous dramatic development. This is more noticeable in his later works. He came to dominate the opera scene after an era of bel canto composers such as Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini.
“To copy the truth can be a good thing, but to invent the truth is better, much better. ”
Verdi was a food lover, adored Shakespeare and the only piece of chamber music he wrote was a string quartet.
Verdi and Wagner were born in the same year. They were known to be rivals even though they never met.
Most prominent operas
I masnadieri 1847
Luisa Miller 1849
Il trovatore 1853
La traviata 1853
I vespri Siciliani 1855
Simon Boccanegra 1857
Un ballo in maschera 1859
La forza del destino 1862
Don Carlo 1867
Francesco Maria Piave was an Italian librettist, journalist, translator, poet and stage manager at Teatro La Fenice in Venice. He wrote 10 librettos for Verdi of which Rigoletto and La traviata are the most well known. Both operas have a very clear musical form. With Piave, Verdi was allowed to decide how the story would be told in terms of the musical structure and arrangement of pieces.
Piave also wrote librettos for other popular composers of his day. He was even commissioned to write the libretto for Aida but suffered a stroke and could not speak. When Piave died, Verdi helped to support his family and he also paid for his funeral.
2d1, 2, 2, 2 – 4, 2, 3, 1
timp, cymbals, bass drum, triangle, strings
Verdi composed some of his most well known operas in the early 1850s. He finished Rigoletto in 1851 and both La traviata and Il trovatore premiered in 1853.
While Verdi and his wife Giuseppina Strepponi stayed in Paris for a few months in 1852 they saw an adapted play based on the novel La Dame aux caméllias by Alexandre Dumas. Verdi had probably read the novel earlier but after seeing the play he immediately began composing the music for the opera “Violetta”, a title that was later changed to La traviata. The premiere in 1853 at Teatro La Fenice in Venice was a disaster. The audience were mainly unhappy with the cast, something Verdi also had concerns about. After its premiere, many Italian cities were interested in putting on the opera but all offers were declined by Verdi. A few months after the original premiere, another Venice theatre, Teatro San Benedetto, performed the opera with a better cast. It was a great success. Today it is one of our most loved operas.
An interesting fact is that Verdi was adamant that the opera was set in the present day with modern costumes. That was not achieved until 1906, and since the opera premiered in 1853, it could not be called contemporary.
Today La traviata is the number one most performed opera worldwide.
Duet, choir – Libiamo nè lieti calici (Violetta, Alfredo)
Duet – Un di felici eterea (Violetta, Alfredo)
Aria – E strano… Ah! Fors’ e lui… Sempre libera (Violetta)
Aria – De miei bollenti spiriti… O mio rimorso (Alfredo)
Duet – Pura siccome un angelo (Giorgio, Violetta)
Duet – Dammi tu forza o cielo (Alfredo, Violetta)
Aria – Di provenza il mar il suol (Giorgio)
Noi siamo zingarelle (Chorus)
Aria – Addio del passato (Violetta)
Duet – Parigi, o cara (Alfredo, Violetta)