La Traviata, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi made a profound impact on the world of opera with his musical genius but equally so with his bravery to challenge the norms and dogmas of his time. He broke barriers in operatic composition as well as in subject matter. La Traviata, the third and arguably greatest opera of Verdi's middle period, is a fantastic example of the composer's determination to explore musical and topical areas where no-one dared to go before. As you will witness on the stage of the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence this season, the story and the music ring timelessly true.
Verdi and his favourite librettist Francesco Maria Piave adapted Alexandre Dumas' play La dame aux camelias, itself based on the true story of Marie Duplessis, a bedazzling Parisian courtesan of remarkable beauty, charm and intelligence. La Traviata (literally "the fallen woman") gives her the name Violetta Valery and follows her unlikely love affair with Alfredo Germont. The young nobleman's naive and pure feelings touch Violetta so profoundly that she abandons the life of a courtesan and devotes herself to him, at the dismay of Parisian high society. Pressured by Alfredo's father Giorgio, Violetta turns the young man away and returns to her old ways in order to protect his family's honour. As she slowly succumbs to tuberculosis, Alfredo finds out about her sacrifice, and they spend her final moments together. Violetta dies loved and happy, defying society's false morals.
La Traviata's premiere on 6 March 1853 at Teatro la Fenice in Venice was not a success: its polarising story and the casting of an older, voluptuous soprano as the young, delicate and sick Violetta did not resonate. Not losing confidence, Verdi reworked and recast La Traviata, and its second premiere at the Teatro Gallo (formerly Teatro San Benedetto) in Venice in 1854 established the work as one of Verdi's finest.
Musically, La Traviata demonstrates Verdi's complete command of melody's and orchestration's dramatic affordances. It is a marvel of operatic characterisation and contains some of the Maestro's signature tunes, like the toast 'Libiamo ne' lieti calici', Violetta's arias 'Sempre libera', 'Un di felice' and 'Ah, fors'è lui', and Alfredo's 'O mio rimorso.'