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La Traviata

La Traviata – the “scarlet woman” who makes a huge sacrifice for love – Verdi

This opera was inspired by real life in Paris and is based on the book The Lady of Camelias; Verdi well knew the Paris lifestyle having lived there for many years. The opera was first performed at La Fenice opera house in Venice in 1853 following on to Her Majesty’s theatre in 1856.

Violetta Valèry an infamous woman in Paris throws a party and is introduced to Alfredo Germont who impulsively confesses his fascination with her. Suffering from Tuberculosis, she nearly faints and asks everyone to leave but Alfredo will not go and he tells her that he thinks he loves her – she cynically rejects him wondering privately if it is possible. She gives him a flower saying that when it fades he must come back to her and he finally leaves.

Alfredo and Violetta have been happily together for three months, living in the countryside to escape her reputation when Alfredo realises that she has been selling her possessions to fund their expenses and determined to raise money himself, sets off to Paris.

Meanwhile his father Giorgio Germont visits the house hoping to persuade Violetta to reject his son so that his daughter could make a good marriage, understanding that Alfredo’s association with her would blight the daughter’s chances and knowing that she did not have long to live, she reluctantly agrees to do so but asks that Giorgio would explain her reasons to his son on her death and not before. She leaves the house that she had shared with Alfredo leaving a note for him. On his return he angrily reads the letter and then spots an invitation to a friend’s ball that night and decides to confront her there. Giorgio arrives to speak with his son to try to persuade him to go home with him but Alfredo refuses.

When he arrives at the ball everybody has heard rumours of the breakup, Violetta arrives with the Baron Douphol, and Alfredo in a jealous rage challenges him to play at the tables and constantly wins the money, his father appeals to him to stop and a very concerned Violetta asks to speak with him privately. He asks her to run away with him but she lies and tells him that the Baron is her new lover, his fury is unbearable and he throws his money at her saying that she is repaid. His father rebukes him and the Baron challenges him to a duel.

Sadly the last scene is of Violetta, living with one maid in a small apartment in Paris. The doctor states that she has only a short time to live and so, desiring to be alone she asks her maid to donate what is left of her money to the poor of the city. She takes up a letter from Giorgio saying that he had told Alfredo the truth and they were both coming to visit her, and so she dies in his arms safe in the knowledge that Alfredo still loves her.

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