La Traviata

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Synopsis

An opera in three acts
by Giuseppe Verdi
Premiered at Teatro la Fenice, Venice, March 6, 1853.
Setting: Paris, 1850

Act 1Violetta’s house, Paris, August 1850

A party is underway. A group of latecomers arrive and Violetta, a courtesan, is introduced to Alfredo Germont. Violetta, who has been ill, is told that Alfredo had worried about her during her illness. Violetta is confused by Alfredo’s concern. She barely knows him. At dinner, Alfredo gives a toast to love. Violetta counters with a toast to pleasure. Violetta is certain she will never love.

A dance has begun. The party exits into the next room but Violetta grows faint and is unable to join the others. Alfredo stays behind. He warns her that she must take care of herself. She responds that that is impossible. He tells her he loves her and will take care of her. She takes it as idle chatter and laughs it off. He proclaims his love again and she sees he is sincere. She tells him he must look elsewhere for love, that she cannot love. She gives him a flower and tells him to return when it has withered.

Dawn approaches and the party ends. Violetta thinks back on her innocence, Alfredo’s kindness, and questions her hasty repulsion of him. But her destiny is settled, she knows it’s foolish to dream.

Act 2A country house near Paris, January 1851

Violetta has forsaken her lavish life in Paris for Alfredo’s love. They have lived a humble life together for three months.

Alfredo returns from hunting and finds Annina dressed for travel. She explains she has been to Paris to sell off Violetta’s possessions. Alfredo is ashamed to discover that Violetta has been supporting him. He leaves immediately for Paris to request money from his father.

Violetta receives an invitation to a dance at Flora’s in the evening. She is amused by the invite and has no intention of attending. A gentleman arrives to speak with Violetta. It is Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father. He explains that Violetta’s connection with the family has endangered his daughter’s hopes of marriage. He requests that she leave Alfredo for the sake of his daughter’s happiness. She sees her dreams slipping away. She agrees to sacrifice herself for the sake of Giorgio’s daughter, on the condition that Alfredo is told the truth upon her death. Violetta returns to Paris and Baron Douphol.

Alfredo is devastated by her departure. Giorgio tells him he must forget her, but he cannot. He finds Flora’s invitation and leaves for Paris.

Alfredo arrives at Flora’s and feigns indifference to Violetta. Douphol commands Violetta to ignore Alfredo. The party plays cards. Alfredo wins one round after another. The game escalates to an aggressive competition between Douphol and Alfredo before it is interrupted by dinner.

Violetta tells Alfredo they need to talk. She pleads for him to leave. She fears an impending duel between Douphol and Alfredo. Alfredo says he’ll leave if she follows. She tells him a sacred oath demands that she stay. She says the oath was spoken to Douphol and that she loves him. Alfredo calls the party over to witness his settlement of debt. He throws money at her feet with contempt. She faints. The party is disgraced by his behaviour. Alfredo, too, is horrified by what he has done.

Act 3Violetta’s bedroom, Paris, February 1850

Violetta is dying. The doctor tells Annina that she only has a few hours left. Violetta sends Annina on an errand and begins to read a letter from Giorgio. A duel has taken place between Alfredo and Douphol. Douphol has been wounded and Alfredo has gone abroad. But Giorgio has revealed Violetta’s sacrifice and he and his son will soon be by her side.

Annina returns and announces she has visitors. It is Alfredo and his father. Alfredo and Violetta embrace and dream of a new life together. There is a moment of hope, but it soon vanishes. Violetta collapses and the doctor proclaims her dead.