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Maria Callas as Violetta (La Traviata)
08 Feb 2009

VERDI: La Traviata — Lisbon 1958

La Traviata: Melodramma in three acts.

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata

Alfredo: Alfredo Kraus; Annina: Maria Cristina de Castro; Commissario: Manuel Leitao; Douphol: Alvaro Malta; Flora: Laura Zannini; Gastone: Piero di Palma; Germont: Mario Sereni; Grenvil: Alessandro Maddalena; Obigny: Vito Susca; Violetta: Maria Callas. Coro do Teatro Nacional de São Carlos. Orquestra Sinfónica Nacional. Franco Ghione, conducting. Live performance, 27 March 1958, Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, Lisbon.

 

Music composed by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after La dame aux Camélias (1848) by Alexandre Dumas, fils (based on the life of Dumas’ putative mistress, Marie Duplessis (aka Alphonsine Plessis)).

First Performance: 6 March 1853, Teatro La Fenice, Venice

Principal Roles:
Violetta Valery Soprano
Flora Bervoix Mezzo-Soprano
Annina Soprano
Alfredo Germont Tenor
Giorgio Germont, suo padre Baritone
Gastone, visconte de Letorieres Tenor
Barone Douphol Baritone
Marchese d’Obigny Bass
Dottore Grenvil Bass
Giuseppe, servo di Violetta Tenor
Domestico di Flora Bass
Commissario Bass

Setting: In and around Paris, about 1850.

Synopsis:

Act I

The salon in Violetta’s house

Violetta Valéry, a famed courtesan, throws a lavish party at her Paris salon to celebrate her recovery from an illness. Gastone, a count, has brought with him his friend, the young nobleman Alfredo Germont, who has long adored Violetta from afar. While walking to the salon, Gastone tells Violetta that Alfredo loves her, and that while she was ill, he came to her house every day. Alfredo joins them, admitting the truth of Gastone’s remarks. Violetta replies to Alfredo, “I’m indebted to you”.

The Baron waits nearby to escort Violetta to the salon, but she walks to him saying, “You, Baron, never cared as much”. The Baron replies, “I have just known you for a year”. Violetta glares at Alfredo and says, “He just met me a minute ago!”. At the salon, the Baron is asked to give a toast, but he refuses and the crowd turns to Alfredo (Alfredo, Violetta, chorus: Libiamo ne’ lieti calici — “Drinking song”).

From the next room, the orchestra begins to play and the guests move there to dance. Violetta feels dizzy and asks the guests to go ahead and to leave her to rest for a while to recover. The Baron leaves her alone. The guests dance in the next room, while Violetta looks at her face in her mirror. She looks pale. Alfredo enters and he expresses his concern for her fragile health and later declares his love for her (Alfredo, Violetta: Un dì, felice, eterea — “The day I met you”).

At first Violetta rejects him because his love means nothing of importance to her. However, there is something about Alfredo that touches her heart. Alfredo is about to leave when she gives him a flower, telling him to return it when it has wilted. She promises to meet him the next day.

After the guests leave, Violetta wonders if Alfredo could actually be the one in her life (Violetta: Ah, fors’è lui — “Perhaps he is the one”). But she concludes that she needs freedom to live her life (Violetta: Sempre libera — “Always free”). From off stage, Alfredo’s voice is heard singing about love as he walks down the street.

Act II

Scene 1: Violetta’s country house outside Paris

Three months later, Alfredo and Violetta are living together in a peaceful country house outside Paris. Violetta has fallen in love with Alfredo and she has completely abandoned her former life. Alfredo sings of their happy life together (Alfredo: Di miei bollenti spiriti — “Wild my dream of ecstasy”). Annina, the maid, arrives from Paris, and, when questioned by Alfredo, she tells him that she went there to sell the horses, carriages and everything owned by Violetta to support their country lifestyle.

Alfredo is shocked to learn this and leaves for Paris immediately to settle matters himself. Violetta returns home and receives an invitation from her friend, Flora, inviting her to a party in Paris. Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, is announced and demands that, for the sake of his family, she break off her relationship with his son. He is reluctantly impressed by Violetta’s nobility, which is not what he expected from a courtesan. Giorgio reveals that Violetta’s relationship with Alfredo has threatened his daughter’s engagement (Giorgio: Pura siccome un angelo — “I have a daughter as pure as an angel”) because of Violetta’s reputation as a courtesan . While she says that she cannot break off her relationship with Alfredo because she loves him so much, Giorgio pleads with her for the sake of his family. With growing remorse in her heart, she finally agrees (Violetta, Giorgio: Dite alla giovine — “Say to this child of thine”). She bids farewell to Giorgio. Giorgio kisses her forehead in a gesture of gratitude for her kindness and sacrifice, before leaving her weeping alone.

Violetta gives a note to Annina to send to Flora as acceptance of the party invitation. As she is writing a farewell letter to Alfredo, he enters. She can barely control her sadness and tears; she tells him repeatedly of her unconditional love (Violetta: Amami Alfredo — “I love you, Alfredo”) before rushing out and handing the farewell letter to her servant to give to Alfredo.

The servant gives the farewell letter to Alfredo. As soon as he finishes reading it, Giorgio comes in and attempts to comfort his son, reminding him of his family in Provence (Giorgio: Di Provenza il mar — “In Provence”). Alfredo suspects the Baron is behind his separation with Violetta and the party invitation, which he finds on the desk, strengthens his suspicions. He determines to confront Violetta at the party. Giorgio tries to stop Alfredo, but he rushes out.

Scene 2: Party at Flora’s house

At the party, the Marquis tells Flora that Violetta and Alfredo have separated. She calls for the entertainers to perform for the guests (Chorus: Noi siamo zingarelle — “We’re gypsies gay and youthful”); (Chorus: Di Madride noi siam mattadori — “We are bullfighters from Madrid”). Gastone and his friends join the matadors and sing (Gastone, chorus, dancers: E Piquillo, un bel gagliardo — “Twas Piquillo, so young and so daring”).

Violetta arrives with Baron Douphol. They see Alfredo at the gambling table, and upon seeing them, Alfredo creates a big scene about his winning. The Baron feels annoyed. He goes to the gambling table and challenges him. Alfredo wins some large sums of money from the Baron until Flora announces that the supper is ready. Alfredo leaves with handfuls of money.

Everyone goes in to supper, but Violetta has asked Alfredo to see her. Fearing that the Baron’s anger will lead him to challenge Alfredo to a duel, she gently asks Alfredo to leave. Alfredo misunderstands her apprehension and demands that she admit that she loves the Baron. In grief, she does so. Her confession makes Alfredo furious and he calls the guests to witness what he has to say. Alfredo humiliates and denounces Violetta in front of the guests, and then throws his winnings at her for her “services” while they lived together (Questa donna conoscete?). She falls, fainting onto the floor. The guests reprimand Alfredo: “Leave at once, we despise you. You have insulted a noble lady”.

In search of his son, Giorgio enters the hall. Knowing the real significance of the scene, he denounces his son’s behavior (Giorgio, Alfredo, Violetta, chorus: Di sprezzo degno, se stesso rendo — “Worthy of contempt is the man”).

Flora and the ladies attempt to persuade Violetta to leave the dining room, but, before doing so, Violetta turns to Alfredo and sings, Alfredo, Alfredo, di questo core non puoi comprendere tutto l’amore — “Alfredo, Alfredo, little canst thou fathom the love within my heart for thee”.

Act III

Violetta’s bedroom

Dr. Grenvil tells Annina that Violetta will not live long as her tuberculosis has worsened. Alone in her room, Violetta reads a letter sent by Alfredo’s father saying the Baron was only wounded in his duel with Alfredo. The letter also states that he has informed Alfredo of the sacrifice Violetta made for him and his sister; and that he is sending his son to see her as quickly as possible to ask for her forgiveness. But Violetta senses it is too late (Violetta: Addio del passato — “So closes my sad story”).

Annina rushes in the room to tell Violetta of the arrival of Alfredo. The lovers are reunited. Alfredo suggests that they leave Paris (Alfredo, Violetta: Parigi, o cara , noi lasceremo — “Dearest, we’ll leave Paris” ).

But it is too late; she knows her time is up (Alfredo, Violetta: Gran Dio! morir si giovane — “O, God! to die so young”). The old Germont enters (Ah, Violetta) with the doctor. He regrets what he has done. Shortly after, Violetta dies in Alfredo’s arms.

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.

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