- Giuseppe Verdi. Opera in three acts. 1853.
- Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, after the play La dame aux camélias
(The Lady of the Camelias) by Alexandre Dumas fils.
- First performance at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, on 6th March 1853.
|Violetta Valéry, a courtesan ||soprano|
|Flora Bervoix, her friend ||mezzo-soprano|
|Annina, her maid ||soprano|
|Alfredo Germont ||tenor|
|Giorgio Germont, his father ||baritone|
|Gastone, Vicomte de Letorières ||tenor|
|Baron Douphol ||baritone|
|Marchese D'Obigny ||bass|
|Doctor Grenvil ||bass|
|Giuseppe, Violettas servant ||tenor|
Violetta, at a party in her house, is moved to learn that the young Alfredo Germont is in love with
her. There are, however, hints already that she is suffering from consumption. They set up house
together in the country, but Violetta secretly sells her jewels to meet the expenses they now incur.
Alfredo learns of this from Violetta's maid, Annina, and goes to Paris to raise money. In his absence
his father arrives, seeking to persuade Violetta to leave Alfredo, whose behaviour prejudices the
marriage chances of his sister, as well as his own prospects. Violetta sacrifices her own feelings and
accepts an invitation from her friend Flora Bervoix which will take her back to her old life, now
under the protection of Baron Douphol. She leaves a note for Alfredo, telling him of her decision,
while old Germont tries to comfort his son, without revealing anything of Violetta's true motives.
Alfredo then bursts into the party at Flora's house and insults Violetta, whom he finds with her new
protector. She falls back, fainting, as the second act closes. In the third act Violetta is at home, near
to death. Germont has told his son of the sacrifice she had made, and Alfredo now returns, holding
her in his arms as she dies.
La traviata (The Fallen Woman) is one of those operas that has retained a firm position in current
repertoire, never failing in its effect. The prelude to the first act uses the tender and melancholy
music that will later precede Violetta's death, as well as her plea to him to love her. The first of these
returns in the prelude to the third act. At Violetta's there is a lively drinking-song or Brindisi,
Libiamo (Let us drink), led by Alfredo, and as the guests go into the next room, he declares his love
for her in Un dì felice (One happy day). Her response to his declarations is heard in her later
reflective Ah, fors'è lui (Ah perhaps it is he my heart desires). In the second act Alfredo considers
the happiness that life with Violetta has brought him in De'miei bollenti spiriti (Fervent my dream
of ecstasy). Germont's attempts to remind his son of their home, Di Provenza il mar, il suol (The
sea, the land of Provence) have provided baritones with a moving aria, and there is later contrast in
the masquerading gypsy and Spanish dances at the house of Flora Bervoix. There is, of course,
much else in a work, which, although set in 1700, might equally be supposed to have a contemporary
setting and relevance in the Paris of the 1850s, an element of realism less apparent in historical
dramas of kings and princes.