Opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. Text taken from the French by Piave.
The original of the libretto is the celebrated novel “La dame aux camelias” by the younger Dumas. The scene is laid in and near Paris. Alfred Germont is passionately in love with Violetta Valery, one of the most frivolous beauties in Paris. She is pleased with his sincere passion, anything like which she has never hitherto known, and openly telling him who she is, she warns him herself ; but he loves her all the more, and as she returns his passion, she abandons her gay life and follows him into the country, where they live very happily for some months.
Annina, Violetta’s maid, dropping a hint to Alfred that her mistress is about to sell her house and carriage in town in order to avoid expenses, he departs for the capital to prevent this.
During his absence Violetta receives a visit from Alfred’s father, who tries to show her that she has destroyed not only family’s but his son’s happiness by suffering Alfred to unite himself to one so dishonored. He succeeds in convincing her, and, broken-hearted, she determines to sacrifice herself and leave Alfred secretly. Ignoring the possible reason for this inexplicable action, Alfred is full of wrath and resolves to take vengeance. Ile finds Violetta in the house of a former friend, Flora Bervoix, who is in a position similar to that of Violetta. The latter, having no other resources, and feeling herself at death’s door (a state of health suggested in the first act by an attack of suffocation), has returned to her former life. Alfred insults her publicly. The result is a duel between her present adorer, Baron Dauphal, and Alfred.
From this time on Violetta declines rapidly, and in the last act, which takes place in her sleeping-room, we find her dying. Hearing that Alfred has been victorious in the duel and receiving a letter from his father, who is now willing to pardon and to accept her as his daughter-in-law, she revives to some extent ; and Alfred, who at last hears of her sacrifice, returns to her, but only to afford a last glimpse of happiness to the unfortunate woman, who expires, a modern Magdalen, full of repentance and striving tenderly to console her lover and his now equally desolate father.
This opera, which at first fared poorly at the hands of the public, is now classed among the works that have most contributed to Verdi’s reputation. Little can be said for the text of “La Traviata,” but its faults are redeemed by the work of the master, whose music abounds in the finest melody and in special features of admirable quality.