|2019 | Saturday||
Opera in 3 acts
Performed in Italian (with Russian surtitles)
Premiere of this production: 17 Jul 1997
The performance has 1 intermission
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes
The most lyrical Verdi’s work is La traviata, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils The Lady of the Camellias. The title La traviata means literally The Fallen Woman, or perhaps more figuratively, The Woman Who Goes Astray.
The title character of the play is Marguerite Gautier, who is based on Marie Duplessis, the real-life lover of author Dumas, fils. Duplessis was both a popular courtesan and the hostess of a salon, where politicians, writers, and artists gathered for socializing. Alexandre Dumas, pere allegedly insisted on his son splitting up with Duplessis: and when he returned to Paris, she had already died of consumption.
Since its debut as a play, numerous editions have been performed at theatres around the world. Giuseppe Verdi attended the Paris premiere of the play and soon turned to composing the opera. When Dumas, fils heard La traviata, he said: “Nobody would have remembered my Lady of the Camellias in 50 years but for Verdi, who made it immortal”.
Alfredo Germont arrives at a party at the home of Violetta Valéry, a renowned courtesan. She is surprised to learn of his devotion to her, and of his concern during her recent illness. Alfredo leads a toast to love; Violetta responds with a toast to pleasure and excitement. Feeling faint, she excuses herself to rest. Alfredo follows and begs her to allow him to love and care for her. She tells him she is not interested in such heroic commitment, but invites him to return the next day. Alone, she wonders if she is capable of experiencing love. Dismissing the idea as nonsense, she determines to live for freedom and pleasure alone.
Violetta flees her extravagant life in Paris to be with Alfredo. After learning that she plans to sell her belongings to maintain their country retreat, Alfredo goes to Paris to pay their debts. While he is away, Giorgio Germont visits Violetta. He tells her that Alfredo, his son, intends to give her all his possessions. She tells the elder Germont that she would never accept and reveals that she is making sacrifices to maintain their life together. Although impressed by her nobility, Germont begs her to leave his son, as her association with the family will ruin his daughter’s future prospects. Violetta finally agrees, asking only that, after her death, Germont tell his daughter the truth. Later, when Alfredo receives a letter from Violetta, claiming she no longer loves him, he is devastated.
Violetta attends a party with her new protector, Baron Douphol. The men gamble, and Alfredo is the winner. Violetta pulls Alfredo aside and begs him to leave; he refuses and threatens to duel with the Baron. Unable to break her promise to the elder Germont, Violetta insists that she loves the Baron. Furious and hurt, Alfredo calls the guests together and publicly insults Violetta.
Now on her deathbed and tended by Annina, Violetta re-reads a letter from Giorgio Germont. According to the letter, Alfredo went abroad after dueling with the Baron; his father wrote to him there, explaining Violetta’s sacrifice. Alfredo arrives, asking forgiveness and pledging eternal love. Violetta expresses hope for their future together, but she is very weak. Alfredo sends Annina for the Doctor. He arrives with Giorgio Germont, who reproaches himself for his earlier behavior toward Violetta. He asks forgiveness and pledges to accept her as a daughter, but he is too late.
La traviata is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It is based on La dame aux Camelias (1852), a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils. The title La traviata means literally The Fallen Woman, or perhaps more figuratively, The Woman Who Goes Astray. It was originally entitled Violetta, after the main character.
Piave and Verdi wanted to follow Dumas in giving the opera a contemporary setting, but the authorities at La Fenice insisted that it be set in the past, "c. 1700". It was not until the 1880s that the composer and librettist's original wishes were carried out and "realistic" productions were staged.
The first performance of the opera was on 6 March 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in Venice. It was jeered at times by the audience, who directed some of their scorn at the casting of soprano Fanny Salvini-Donatelli in the lead role of Violetta. Though she was an acclaimed singer, they considered her to be too old (at 38) and too overweight to credibly play a young woman dying of consumption. (Verdi had previously attempted to persuade the manager of La Fenice to re-cast the role with a younger woman, but with no success.) Nevertheless, the first act was met with applause and cheering at the end; but in the second act, the audience began to turn against the performance, especially after the singing of the baritone (Felice Varesi) and the tenor (Lodovico Graziani). The day after, Verdi wrote to his friend Muzio in what has now become perhaps his most famous letter: "La traviata last night a failure. Was the fault mine or the singers'? Time will tell."
After some revisions between 1853 and May 1854, mostly affecting acts 2 and 3, the opera was presented again in Venice, this time at the Teatro San Benedetto. This performance was a critical success, largely due to Maria Spezia-Aldighieri's portrayal of Violetta.
The opera (in the revised version) was first performed in Vienna on 4 May 1855 in Italian. It was first performed in England on 24 May 1856 in Italian at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, where it was considered morally questionable, and "the heads of the Church did their best to put an injunction upon performance; the Queen refrained from visiting the theatre during the performances, though the music, words and all, were not unheard at the palace". It was first performed in the United States on 3 December 1856 in Italian at the Academy of Music in New York. George Templeton Strong noted in his diary: "People say the plot's immoral, but I don't see that it's so much worse than many others, not to speak of Don Giovanni, which as put on the stage is little but rampant lechery", while the Evening Post critic wrote: "Those who have quietly sat through the glaring improprieties of Don Giovanni will hardly blush or frown at anything in La traviata."
The opera was first performed in France on 6 December 1856 in Italian by the Theatre-Italien at the Salle Ventadour in Paris, and on 27 October 1864 in French as Violetta (an adaptation by Édouard Duprez, older brother of the tenor Gilbert Duprez) at the Theatre Lyrique on the Place du Chatelet with Christine Nilsson in the title role. The French adaptation of the libretto was published in 1865.
Today, the opera has become immensely popular and it is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire. It is second on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide, behind only The Magic Flute.
© Photo by Damir Yusupov/Bolshoi Theatre
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