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La Traviata – plot of the Opera

English
Traviata
La Traviata is an Opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. The libretto is written by Francesco Maria Piave, based on Alexandre Dumas son's novel "The Lady of the Camelias". It is considered the most significant and romantic opera by Verdi and is part of the so-called "trilogia popolare" (popular trilogy) with Il trovatore and Rigoletto.
The first public performance took place at La Fenice Theatre in Venice on 6th March 1853 but, mostly due to poor performers and to the scandalous topic, was a flop; performed again one year later with a more professional cast and backdating the action to two centuries before, it got the deserved success. Among the most popular passages of the Opera we can mention Violetta's plea "Amami, Alfredo" (Love me, Alfredo), the famous drinking song "Libiamo ne' lieti calici", the cabaletta "Sempre libera degg'io" (Always free), the final concertato in the second act, the aria "Addio, del passato" and the duet "Parigi, o cara" (Paris, oh dear).
The plot, as already said, follows with few variations the events of the protagonists of Dumas's novel. In 1844 while in Paris Alexandre Dumas met Marie Duplessis, the woman who will inspire him his most famous novel: "The Lady of the Camelias" (1848). For the times in which the novel was written it had a very scandalous topic. Indeed, the novel, as the opera later on, was much criticized and interpreted in many different ways and regarded with disdain by all the conformists of the time while moving thousands of readers all over the world. It tells the story of the sad love between Margherita Gautier and Armando Duval: sad because it is against the rules and values of the bourgeois society. She is the courtesan, used to live in luxury, to wear expensive clothes and to have precious jewels and accessories, who falls in love with Armando, a young man from a respectable family. Margherita fells she is not worthy Armando and she suffers because of the moral and social distance between them. On the other hand Armando fells guilty towards his family and Margherita too for having humiliated and misunderstood her. Desperate attempts of redemption and undervaluated sacrifice are at the core of the plot bringing to life what we could nowadays call "a story of other times" but is still able to charme the public and arouse emotions and sensations with the same strenght as centuries ago. Delicate and moving.
 
A nice picture of the Traviata during the Opera season in the Arena in 2011
 
The novel had immediate success and Dumas himself wrote a play for the theatre. However, the fame of "The Lady of the Camelias" is almost entirely due to the transposition in music by Giuseppe Verdi. Margherita Gautier, known as Violetta Valery in La Traviata, has become an icon, perfomed by renowned female artists such as Eleonora Duse, Greta Garbo, Maria Callas.
"La Traviata"'s plot tells the misfortunes of Violetta Valery, a regular guest in the most prestigious Parisian salons, well-known by the richest men in the city as a woman of loose morals. Among the many visitors of the salons she meets Alfredo Germont, pushed by some friends to take part in one of the parties in the city. The two fall in love and they decide to move in a house outside the city, even though Margherita suffers from phthisis and therefore she is destined to a premature death. One day her lover's father pays a visit to her asking to leave Alfredo because his sister is getting married with a man living nearby and he would surely cancel the wedding if he finds out about Violetta and Alfredo's relationship. Violetta decides to escape while her lover is in Paris to take care of their economic problems. When he comes back home he can only find a farewell letter. He then goes to Paris looking for explanations but he finds her with another man. The two men have a fight and Violetta, exhausted from the recent events, suffers from a phthisis attack and is obliged to go back to the old house. When Violetta and Alfredo go back to his house, she tells him about his father's request, and dies soon after in their bed.

 

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