“La Traviata,” or “The Misguided One,” a grand opera in three acts with score by Giuseppe Verdi and text by Piave, was first presented in Venice March 6, 1853. It is founded on Dumas’ ” Lady of the Camelias ” but the period is changed to the time of Louis XIV.
Violetta Valery, the lost one. Flora Bervoix, a friend of Violetta. Annina, the confidante of Violetta. Alfred Germont, the lover of Violetta. Georgio Germont, his father. Gastone, Visconte de Letorieres. Baron Douphol, a rival of Alfred. Marquis D’Obigny. Doctor Grenvil, a physician. Joseph, the servant of Violetta. Guests, friends, gypsies, matadores, servants.
The scene is laid in and near Paris, the story following closely that of Dumas’ play. The action begins at the house of Violetta, where a gay entertainment is in progress. In the crowd is a youth, Alfred Germont, who meets the beautiful hostess for the first time and becomes deeply enamored. He is of excellent family but he does not hesitate to offer her love of a character she has never known in her unfortunate and erring life. Though she merely laughs at his protests at first, she gradually is moved by his sincerity and returns his love in kind. She confesses her past to him in all its ignominy and warns him away but he declares his willingness to accept her as she is. She for-sakes her voluptuous life and goes with him to live quietly in the country, near Paris, and here for several months they enjoy a life of idyllic happiness.
The second act affords a glimpse of their almost pastoral seclusion. However, the more practical side of life forces itself upon Violetta when she realizes that their funds are growing low. She sends secretly to Paris to sell some of her possessions in order to be able to meet her debts and to continue the maintenance of their establishment. Alfred learns of this from Annina and, revolting at the idea of dependence upon Violetta’s bounty, hastens to the city to recover her property. During his absence, Alfred’s father comes and pleads with Violetta, for the sake of the dishonored family, to release his son from the bond-age he seems to love so well. To make his arguments irresistible, he tells her that Alfred’s sister will be renounced by the wealthy noble to whom she is betrothed unless the connection in question is severed. Violetta’s life with Alfred has grown to mean redemption to her but she determines upon the supreme sacrifice and, while he is gone she steals away broken-hearted to take up her old life. The angry and grief-stricken Alfred gives her course its worst interpretation and when in the third act he meets Violetta at a ball given by her friend Flora Bervoix, he insults her publicly and flings at her feet the money he just has won at the gaming-table. He is challenged by Baron Douphol, with whom she is living, and a duel is fought. Violetta, who is stricken with consumption, receives her death-blow with Alfred’s insult and declines rapidly. The father, touched by her suffering, reveals the story of his interview with her and the nobility of her conduct and Alfred hastens to her bedside to receive her dying word of forgiveness.
“La Traviata,” which is now regarded one of the masterpieces upon which Verdi rests his remarkable fame, was at first coldly received. The adverse circumstances under which it was produced had much to do with this verdict, for the tenor had a cold, the barytone, piqued because he had a subordinate part, walked languidly through it and the soprano was far too much inclined to embonpoint to be convincing in the role of a lady dying with pulmonary trouble. But the passage of time brought sweet revenge and ” La Traviata ” has been instrumental in making its composer a favorite of all opera-goers. It fairly overflows with exquisite melody and is of marked elegance and refinement.
Admired in the attractive score are the drinking song at the supper sung by Alfred and Violetta, ” Libiamo, libiamo ” (” Let’s drink to the beauty “) ; Violetta’s “Ah fors’ è lui ” (” Perchance ’tis he “), a number of rare beauty and fine contrast, greatly beloved by concert as well as operatic sopranos ; Germont’s song to his son, ” Di Provenza il mar ” (” From Provence “) ; Violetta’s aria, “Addio ! del Passato” (“Adieu then, thou art fled”) and her duet with Alfred, ” Parigi, o cara ” (” O Paris, beloved “).