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Opera Essentials: Verdi's La traviata

A quick guide to Verdi's heartbreaking tragedy.

By Kate Hopkins (Content Producer (Opera and Music))

14 April 2014 at 3.22pm | 2 Comments

The Story Begins…

When Alfredo Germont tells the beautiful courtesan Violetta he loves her, she feels that a new and happy life is beginning. But can their relationship survive the disapproval of Alfredo’s father, and the relentless progress of Violetta’s tuberculosis?

Public and Private

Richard Eyre’s production, a favourite in the Royal Opera repertory, brings the lavish world of the 19th-century Parisian demi-monde to life in two spectacular party scenes, but also provides a sensitive portrayal of Violetta’s personal tragedy. There are scenes of powerful intimacy, particularly Violetta’s Act II dialogue with Germont, and her reunion with Alfredo in Act III.

A Legendary Courtesan 

Verdi’s inspiration for La traviata was the play La Dame aux camélias, by Alexandre Dumas fils, adapted by Dumas from his novel of the same name. In turn, Dumas fils used a real life courtesan, Marie Duplessis, as the model for his heroine. Duplessis was a striking, gentle and cultivated woman, the mistress and friend of several important men, including the composer Franz Liszt. Like Violetta, she died very young of tuberculosis.

An Opera of Contrasts

In La traviata, large-scale, brilliant choruses and ensembles (such as the Act I Brindisi and the gypsy and matador choruses in Act II scene 2) contrast with introspective arias and intimate duets for the principal characters. Violetta’s vocal style reflects her deepening experiences of both love and suffering, her flamboyant aria ‘Sempre libera’ in Act I contrasting with the gentle, melancholy ‘Addio, del passato’ in Act III.

Growing Enthusiasm

La traviata received a mixed reception at its premiere – largely due to the half-hearted singing of the original Alfredo and Germont, as well as audience criticism of the original Violetta’s appearance. However, the opera’s second production in 1854 was a success, and since then La traviata has enjoyed a triumphant career. It is currently the most-performed opera in the international repertory, and is performed by The Royal Opera at least every other Season.

La traviata runs from 14 June 2017. Tickets are still available.

The production is generously supported by The Jean Sainsbury Royal Opera House Fund and The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation Cover Awards.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Ravi responded on 5 February 2016 at 10:55am Reply

    I really enjoyed it though all seats were sold out except a few in the first three rows and I also wanted an isle seat so did get one and next time will book in advance.
    For my sixtieth birthday,my wife and children had booked a surprise and when we boarded a plane from Bournemouth to go to Lake Gurada,my wife also showed me two tickets to see La Boheme in Verona which was one of the best present.
    Hence,to be able to see the la Traviata in cinema might be next best thing to a live show, i thoroughly enjoyed it and could see facial expressions and fell part of the show,though half there but fully immersed in spirit.
    In fact, where I live,there is an opera singer who last summer sang froma balcony in Wells next to sea of an italian restaurant in north norfolk and I am trying to arrange a concert to fund raise for Hillside Animal Sanctuary at West Runton where blessed Wendy has dedicated twenty years of he rlife to look after 2000 rescued animals from abuse, injury and abandonment.
    It would be nice if you performed an event to raise funds for a noble cause to support teh charity and earn good karma and blessings from the hearts,soul and spirit of anmals.with best wishes.

  2. Hilary Williams responded on 5 February 2016 at 2:49pm Reply

    This a very worthwhile cause. Just love the screened operas. They have added a new dimension to my life. Thank you!!

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