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Giuseppe Verdi

La Traviata

Verdi: La Traviata

Conductor - James Conlon
Violetta - Renée Fleming; Flora Bervoix - Suzanna Guzman; Annina - Anna Alkhimova; Alfredo Germont - Rolando Villazón; Georgio Germont - Renato Bruson; Gastone de Letorier - Daniel Montenegro; Baron Douphol - Philip Craus; Marchese d'Obigny - Lee Poulis; Doctor Grenvil - James Cresswell; Giuseppe - Sal Malaki

Verdi: La Traviata

When La traviata was first performed on March 6, 1853, at Venice, it was an instant failure. Neither  the critics nor the public liked it. One trouble was the singers: there was a too healthy heroine dying of consumption and everyone thought that was funny. Another trouble were the costumes: it was played in modern clothes (that is, of course, modern for 1853), and no one was used to the grand opera in modern clothes.

At a later performance, all this was changed, and the opera was from then on successful in Italy. The public also liked it— right from the start—in England and America. But not the critics. They thought the story “foul, hideous, and immoral.”

But critics are sometimes wrong at first, and the public is usually right. Today, over a century old, it is one of the most popular of all operas and one finds the story told in books of opera plots intended for children. So much for the morals of critics.


Opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi with libretto in Italian by Francesco Maria Piave based on a play by the younger Alexandre Dumas entitled La dame aux camelias (usually called Camille in English), which is in turn base4 on his semi-autobiographical novel


Violetta Valery, a courtesan 

Flora Bervoix, another 

Alfredo Germont, young man from Provence

Giorgio Germont, his father

Baron Douphol, a protector of Violetta's

Dr. Grenvil

Annina, Violetta's maid

Time: 1846

Place: Paris and the suburb Auteuil
First performance at Venice, March 6, 1853


Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'

Violetta Valery: Soprano. A courtesan, the ‘fallen woman’ of the opera's title. At a large party in her house, Alfredo Germont, who has admired her for some time, declares his love, not knowing that her days are numbered (tuberculosis being incurable then). Although she resists his efforts to coax her to give up her life as a courtesan, nevertheless we next see them in her country house, where they have lived together for three months. Annina, her maid, has returned from selling more of her mistress's possessions in order to pay the bills. When Alfredo learns this, he rushes off to Paris to raise funds. Violetta opens an invitation to a party at the home of her friend Flora, but has no interest in rejoining her old companions. She is visited by Alfredo's father. He clearly believes she is bleeding his son dry. Violetta shows him the bills she herself has paid. Germont tells her he has come to ask her to give up Alfredo, for two reasons: first, his career would stand a better chance if he wasn't with her, and second, Alfredo's sister is engaged to a most suitable husband, whose family will break off the engagement if news of Alfredo's relationship with Violetta becomes known. At first she resists, but gradually she is worn down and agrees to his request, asking him to promise that, when she is dead, Alfredo will be told the truth. She also asks him to stay nearby to console his son after she has left. Germont agrees, respecting her dignified bearing and even sympathizing with her position. Violetta accepts Flora's invitation. Just before she leaves, Alfredo returns, and she begs him passionately to say how much he loves her. He is devastated a few moments later to be handed a letter by a servant in which Violetta explains that she is returning to her former ‘protector’, Baron Douphol. Alfredo's father vainly attempts to console him. At Flora's, Violetta arrives with the Baron, and is shocked to see Alfredo, who is winning at the gaming tables. She begs him to go, insisting that she loves the Baron. Humiliated when he throws his winnings at her feet, and weak from her illness, she faints. Some months later, Violetta is dying, looked after by Annina and her old friend Dr Grenvil. She takes out a letter which she has read many times. It is from Giorgio Germont. He has told his son the truth, and Alfredo is on his way to Violetta. She wonders if he will arrive in time. He does, and takes Violetta in his arms, talking of their life in the future. It is too late. Violetta dies. Arias: È strano!…Ah, fors'è lui…(‘It's strange…Was this the man…?’); Sempre libera (‘Always free’); Dite alla giovine, si bella e pura (‘Tell your daughter, so beautiful and pure’); Di lagrime avea d'uopo… Amami, Alfredo (‘I felt like crying… Love me, Alfredo’); È tardi!…Addio, del passato (‘Too late!…Farewell, happy dreams’); duet (with Alfredo): Parigi, o cara (‘We'll leave Paris, my dearest’). Created (1853) by Fanny Salvini‐Donatelli 

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'

Flora Brvoix: Mezzo-soprano. Close friend of Violetta. It is to Flora that Violetta runs when she agrees to leave Alfredo. And at a party at Flora's, Alfredo insults Violetta by throwing his gambling winnings at her feet. Created (1853) by Speranza Giuseppini.

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'

Alfredo Germont : Tenor. Son ( fils ) of Giorgio Germont. Often referred to as Germont fils . At a party at her house, Alfredo meets the courtesan Violetta Valéry, whom he has loved from afar for some time—when she was recently ill, he came daily to ask after her. He tells her of his feelings and suggests she give up her way of life and live with him, but she refuses to consider this. However, we next meet Alfredo in the country house in which he and Violetta have been living for three months. He has been out hunting. Violetta's maid returns from Paris and when questioned by Alfredo admits she has been selling more of her mistress’s possessions to pay the bills and there are now not many things left to sell. Horrified, Alfredo leaves immediately for Paris to raise money. By the time he returns, Violetta has been visited by his father, who has persuaded her to leave Alfredo for the honour of the family. Alfredo is overcome by Violetta's passionate appeal to him to declare his love for her, before she rushes out of the room. A servant brings him a letter from her - she has decided to return to Baron Duphol, her protector in Paris.

His father, who enters at that moment, is unable to console him. Seeing an invitation to Flora's party on Violetta's desk, Alfredo departs, sure that he will find her there. At the party he spends all his time at the gamingtables, fully aware of Violetta's entrance, but giving no sign of having noticed her. The guests go to supper and Alfredo and Violetta meet alone, but she will not change her plans. Calling the other guests as witnesses, he throws at Violetta all the money he has won, putting him out of her debt. Six months later, Violetta is dying from consumption. She has received a letter from Germont pere—Alfredo went 
abroad after the party. His father has told him of the sacrifice Voletta made for their family and he is hurrying back to hen When he arrives, there is a passionate reunion and they declare their love and talk about their plans for the future. However, Alfredo can see tibat all is not well and, in answer to his questions, Annina confirms that Violetta is dying. As she tells him that her strength is returning, she collapses and dies. Arias; Libiamo nef lieti calici ('Let's drink from the overflowing chalice'—known as the Brindisi, i.e. drinking- song); Un dl felice ('One happy day'); Lunge da lei... De miei bollenti spiriti ('Far from her... My passionate spirit'); duet (with Violetta): Parigi, о cara ('We'll leave Paris, my dearest'). Created (1853) by Lodovico Graziani.

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'

Giorgio Germont: Baritone. Father (père) of Alfredo. Referred to usually as Germont père. He visits Violetta to ask her to make the great sacrifice—to give up his son, whose career, his father believes, is jeopardized by her reputation. Also, he has a daughter who has a good marriage prospect, which is going to be ruined if it becomes known that her brother is living with a courtesan, albeit a high‐class and popular one—such have the social mores changed in the last 100 years or so. Even while asking her to make the sacrifice, Germont feels sorry for Violetta, admiring her dignity and believing that she loves Alfredo. But despite learning that she is ill and may not have long to live, he cruelly persists in pointing out to her that, as she ages and looks less glamorous, Alfredo will lose interest in her anyway—so why not do the right thing now and make things better for his family? Violetta gives in, but asks Germont to promise that one day, when she is dead, he will explain her actions to Alfredo. After she leaves for Paris, he does his best to help his son come to terms with the situation, suggesting he would be better coming to the family home, but Alfredo is inconsolable. At Flora's party, Germont observes his son insulting Violetta, admonishes him for his ungentlemanly behaviour, and disowns him. Months later, Germont's conscience troubles him. He writes to Alfredo telling him the whole story and he also writes to Violetta, explaining that this is what he has done. He arrives just in time to embrace her as a daughter before she dies. Aria: Pura siccome un angelo (‘God gave me a daughter, pure as an angel’); Di Provenza il mar, il suol (‘The sea and soil of Provence’).

At the beginning of the second act, Germont père may seem to be something of a prig, but we must remember that he is very much of his time—family honour is everything and he is prepared to ask any sacrifice to marry his daughter to a suitable husband. And he probably truly believes that Alfredo would be better off without the courtesan. Nevertheless, he is honest enough to admire Violetta's spirit and to feel sorry for her even while he asks her to make such a terrible sacrifice, and he accedes to her request that, one day, Alfredo will be told the truth. Indeed, six months later, he does tell his son the whole story. Charles Osborne in his The Complete Operas of Verdi (London, 1969) sums up the role beautifully when he tartly comments that Di Provenza in its ‘stodgy sentimentality is just right for Germont père’. Giorgio Germont is not a particularly interesting character, but his two arias in his big scene with Violetta have been enough to make the part attractive for baritones. Created (1853) by Felice Varesi.

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'

Baron Douphol: Baritone. Violetta's ‘protector’. When Violetta leaves Alfredo, she writes him a letter telling him she has decided to return to Douphol. Created (1853) by Francesco Dragone.

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'

Dr GrenvilBass. Friend of and physician to Violetta. He attends her while she is dying of consumption. Created (1853) by Andrea Bellini.

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'

AnninaSoprano. Violetta Valéry's maid. She tells Alfredo how her mistress has had to sell her own possessions to keep them in comfort. When Violetta is dying, she is nursed by Annina. Created (1853) by Carlotta Berini.

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'



The story, of course, has to do with disease and love. That doesn't  sound, offhand, like an attractive combination. Still, when one realizes that the first theme in the famous prelude is related to the heroine's illness and the second to her love, there should be in it a lesson in how beautifully composers can project some rather beautiful concepts.

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'


Act I takes place during a late evening party at the home of Violetta Valery - Violetta is a delightful young lady of somewhat dubious reputation. (As a matter of fact, the younger Alexandre Dumas, who wrote the original story, based her character on that of a real courtesan he knew and loved in the Paris of the 1840's. Her original name was Alphonsine Plessis, but she changed to Marie Duplessis in order to sound more high-toned) It's a very gay party, as the opening music attests. Pretty soon Violetta is introduced to a young fellow from the country—Alfredo Germont—an attractive, slightly naive boy with an excellent tenor voice. He shows it off in the Brindisi, or drinking song Violetta—and later everyone else—joins in the quick-waltz rhythms of the tune. When all the guests go into the next room to dance, Violetta remains behind. She is not feeling well, and she is briefly overcome with a fit of coughing. Alfredo, who has quietly remained in the room, begins to tell her quite seriously how much he loves her, even though he had only seen her from a distance before. His accents are so sincere—so passionate—that Violetta is both moved and embarrassed. In light, laughing phrases she advises him to forget her. She knows that she is not the sort of

La traviata girl for this earnest type of young man. Their voices join in a sort of expressive coloratura at the end of this duet, and just before the guests return, she promises to see him again the next day.

It is now late. The guests take their leave, and Violetta is left alone for her great scene, She sings the aria Ah, fors' ё lui, wondering whether this young man from the country can really represent true love in her life of light loves- She takes up the passionate tune he had sung a little earlier, but then (in thе so - called  cabaletta to the aria), she cries, in effect, "Nonsense, nonsense!" Sempre libera—" Ever free"—she sings. Hers must be a free life. For a moment she is silent, as outside her window she hears the voice of Alfredo repeating his love music, but she only grows more feverish and wilder as her voice mounts, in coloratura runs. Almost all sopranos take these runs up to an E-flat above high C, even though Verdi did not write it that way. As the act ends, we know that, despite her protests, the lady is for burning.

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'


Scene 1 takes place three months later. The love affair begun at Violetta's party has developed, and now she and Alfredo are comfortably ensconced in a suburban cottage outside Paris. Alfredo, in his opening aria, De' miei bollentii spiriti, tells us how good she is for him and also how wild she is about him. But it is Violetta who is paying all the bills for the establishment; and by questioning the maid, Annina, Alfredo finds out that she is even selling her personal belongings. The hotheaded young fellow thereupon dashes off to Paris himself to raise the necessary thousand louis. And so when Alfredo's father, a few minutes later, calls on Violetta, he finds the lady alone.

A long and doquent duet follows. At first he demands that she give Alfredo up. Slowly he realizes that there is real nobility in Violetta, and then he pleads with her. Alfredo's sister, he says, will never be able to marry well while her brother maintains so disreputable a connection. He utters this rather caddish sentiment in more tactful terms—and very mellifluously, too; yet that is what it amounts to. And strangely, Violetta is impressed. Before his rather lengthy farewell- taking, she has promised to give up the love of her life and not even to let him know why. Quickly she pens a farewell note to Alfredo, and also accepts an invitation to a party from Flora Bervoix, one of the old gay crowd.

Before she is finished, Alfredo returns. He is full of confidence, sure that his father wffl love her as soon as he sees her. Her heart breaking, Violetta begs him always to love her and then secretly leaves for Paris. A moment later a servant brings him the farewell letter. Greatly distraught, he is about to run after her, when his father appears and stops him. Now old Germont has his great aria Di Provenza il mar, in which be reminds his son of their home in Provence, and begs him to return. Alfredo's answer is to find Flora's invitation, to decide that that is why she has left, and to dash off (as he says) to avenge the insult.

Scene 2 takes us to a party like the one that opened the opera. This time the hostess is Flora Bervoix, and she has provided sumptuous entertainment for her guests. Gypsy dancers and singers are performing as the scene opens, and pretty soon Alfredo puts in an appearance. Everyone is surprised to see him without Violetta, but he makes it clear that he does not much care what has happened to her. That lady herself arrives shortly after, on the arm of Baron Douphol, one of her friends of the bad old days. The Baron and Alfredo take an almost instant dislike to one another, and they start gambling for pretty high stakes. Alfredo wins repeatedly; and as the orchestra plays a nervous little theme, Violetta sits on one side praying that the men will not come to blows. Fortunately, just when Alfredo has all but wiped out his older opponent, supper is announced. Violetta calls Alfredo to her side and begs him to leave. She fears, otherwise, that there may be fighting. Alfredo says he will leave-but only with her, and then he demands to know whether or not she loves the Baron. Remembering her promise to old Germont, Violetta tells a lie: yes, she says, she loves the Baron. Thereupon Alfredo summons the entire company, dramatically denounces Violetta, and hurls all his winnings directly at her. It is shocking behavior—even for a hot-blooded young Frenchman of the 1840’s. No one is more shocked than Alfredo’s own father, who arrives on the scene just in time to denounce Ыпь Even Alfredo is ashamed — ashamed of himself — and the scene ends with a great ensemble number, as the Baron challenges Alfredo to a duel.

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'


The last act begins with a very beautiful and very sad prelude. It suggests the sickness that is slowly bringing Violetta's life to a close, and when the curtain rises, the opening strains of the prelude are repeated. The poor girl has retired to a shabby flat in Paris. She is lying, desperately weak, in bed, attended by the faithful Annina. Dn Grenvil calls to give his patient some professional bedside-manner cheer; but Violetta is not fooled, and a moment later the doctor whispers to Annina that it is now only a matter of hours. Violetta sends the maid out to give half her remaining fortune of twenty louis to the poor and then pulls out a letter to reread. It is from the elder Germont; it had arrived several weeks ago, and it says that Alfredo wounded the Baron in the duel, that he left the country, but that he now knows of Violetta's sacrifice and will come to her. So, too, says Germont, will he come himself. Violetta knows that it is a little late for these fine gentlemen to begin appreciating her merits, and she sings the pathetic aria Addio del passato - "Farewell to the past, farewell to smiling dreams.” At its close, merrymakers are heard outside her window, for it is carnival time in Paris — a time to which Violetta has just bidden her last farewell.


Suddenly Annina returns, breathless, to announce the arrival of the beloved Alfredo. He rushes in, and the lovers sing their touching duet Parigi, о сага. In it they plan to leave the city to revive her strength, to live happily ever after. Feverishly Violetta calls for a dress—but she has not even the strength to get into it Annina rushes off for the doctor,and Germont enters the room in time to see Violetta make her last, sad sacrifice. She gives Alfredo a miniature portrait of herself and charges that he should give it to his future bride. Let her know that there is an angel praying for them both. Then, for a wild moment, Violetta imagines herself better, and the love music of Act I is heard trembling high in the orchestra. But it is only the euphoria that so often precedes death, and the doctor is on hand to pronounce the fateful Ё spental as Violetta faUs back into her remorseful lovers arms.

Maria Callas as Violetta in 'La traviata'

La Traviata - the full opera with Maria Callas


La Traviata, by Giuseppe Verdi

Maria Callas  Violetta
Francesco Albanese  Alfredo
Ugo Savarese  Germont
Ede Marietti Gandolfo  Flora
Ines Marietti  Annina
Mariano Caruso  Gastone
Alberto Albertini  Baron Douphol
Mario Zorgniotti  Marquis  DObigny
Mario Zorgniotti  doctor Grenvil
Tommaso Soley  Giuseppe

Conducted by Gabriele Santini, 1953 

Part one - preludio

Part three - act one : Che è ciò? Un dì felice, eterea Ebben? Che davol fate? Si ridesta in ciel l'aurora

Part five - Act two, scene one : Lunge da lei De' miei bollenti spiriti Annina, donde vieni?...Alfredo?...Per Parigi or partiva

Part seven - Act two, scene one : Ah! dite alla giovine Imponete...Non amarlo ditegli

Part nine - Act two, scene one : Ah, vive sol quel core all'amor mio! Di Provenza il mar

Part two - act one : Dell'invito trascorsa è già l'ora Libiamo, ne' lieti calici

Part four - act one : E strano! E strano! Ah, fors'è lui che l'anima Follie! follie! Delirio vano è questo! Sempre libera

Part six

Part eight - Act two, scene one : Morrò! La mia memoria Dammi tua forza, o cielo! Che fai...Nulla

Part ten - Act two, scene two : Avriam lieta di maschere la notte Noi siamo zingarelle Di Madride noi siam mattadori

Part eleven - Act two scene two : Alfredo! Voi! Invitato a qui seguirmi Ogni suo aver tal femmina

Part thirteen - Act three : Preludio Annina?...Comandate?

Part fifteen - Act three : Signora!...Che t'accade? Parigi, o cara Ah, non più, a un tempio

Part twelve - Act two, scene two : Di sprezzo degno sé stesso rende Alfredo, Alfredo, di questo core

Part fourteen - Act three : Teneste la promessa Addio del passato Largo al quadrupede

Part sixteen - Act Three : Ah! gran dio! Morir sì giovine Ah, Violetta!...Voi, signor! Prendi, quest'è l'immagine Se una pudica vergine

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