Opera in four acts
Libretto – Francesco Maria Piave
(based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, La dame aux Camélias)
Conductor and producer HRISTO IGNATOV
Director and producer KUZMAN POPOV
Set design RADOSTIN CHOMAKOV
Costume design LORA MARINOVA
Choir conductor MALINA HUBCHEVA
Choreography EMILIA KIROVA
VIOLETTA VALERY soprano
FLORA BERVOIX, Violetta’s friend soprano
ANNINA, Violetta’s chambermaid mezzo-soprano
ALFREDO GERMONT tenor
GIORGIO GERMONT, his father baritone
VISCOUNT GASTON de LETORIERES tenor
BARON DOUPHOL baritone
MARQUIS d’OBIGNY, Flora’s friend bass
DOCTOR GRENVIL bass
JOSEPH, Violetta’s servant tenor
Friends of Violetta and Flora, guests, masks, servants and others.
The action takes place in Paris and its vicinity in the 19th century.
The premiere took place on 6 March 1853 at Teatro la Fenice, Venice.
In the house of courtesan Violetta Valery, the Paris ‘demimonde’ celebrates her recovery from illness and return to social life. Viscount Gastone de Letorieres introduces his young friend Alfredo Germont, who for a year has passionately been in love with her. First Violetta looks upon his confession with suspicion and reserve, but seduced by his youthful sincerity she begins to like him. For the first time in her frivolous life, she meets the warmth of a fully committed love.
Alfredo has awakened deep feelings in Violetta. Abandoning her former life, she spends happy days in her country house, not far from Paris. Accidentally Alfredo learns about Violetta’s financial difficulties and leaves for Paris to find the necessary means. While he is away, his father, Giorgio Germont, comes to the house. He says he wants a decent marriage for his daughter but Violetta’s relationship with his son is an obstacle to this marriage. Giorgio Germont has come to make Violetta give up Alfredo. The noble at heart courtesan gives in at his request and decides to sacrifice her happiness. She writes a letter to her friend Flora, telling her that she accepts the invitation for the ball, which she has previously rejected. When Alfredo comes back, Violetta passionately parts with him and without him knowing, secretly leaves for Paris. At first Alfredo is at a loss at her behaviour, but the letter that she wrote makes it clear that she has left him. At this moment Giorgio Germont comes back. In vain does he try to comfort his son. He asks him to return to his family. Alfredo sees Flora’s invitation and decides that he knows the real reason for Violetta’s departure. Insult and jealousy overwhelm him and he leaves for Paris, intending to take revenge on Violetta for her infidelity.
The masked ball in Flora’s house is underway. Without trying to conceal his excitement, Alfredo heads for the gambling table. The appearance of Violetta together with Baron Douphol entirely disrupts the young man. He pleads with her to come back to him but she refuses, remaining faithful to the promise she gave to his father. Overwhelmed with jealousy, Alfredo rudely offends her before everybody and throws at her feet the money he has won at cards, as a payment for her love. At this moment Giorgio Germont enters the room and indignantly reproaches his son for his behaviour. Alfredo feels sorry for his reckless act and accepts Baron Douphol’s challenge to a duel.
Violetta, ill of tuberculosis, feels that her end is near and says farewell to her life and her love for Alfredo. She has received a letter from Giorgio Germont in which the repentant father tells her that he has revealed the truth to his son and they both will come to her to ask forgiveness. ‘Too late!’ is Violetta’s judgment.
A noisy masquerade procession passes by under the window. The carnival has begun. Paris is merry celebrating… Suddenly Annina rushes in and tells the wonderful news that Alfredo is back. When Violetta sees him, she feels a sudden surge of strength, but her happiness is short. Not having been able to express fully the hidden longing of her passionate love, she dies in the arms of Alfredo.
The myth of ‘La Traviata’ (the ‘fallen’, licentious woman) is a myth about the beautiful, doomed girl, who falls in love and gives up her luxurious life, and then sacrifices her love too, in order to save the ‘family honour’ of her beloved.
The sick body and the sick social order?! A risk?!
We suffer for the woman who can sacrifice even her short moment of happiness. It is not about the romantic justification of a courtesan in an opera, it is about the human fate of the doomed to death.
I am inclined to ask, if we start to dispel the myth, is Violetta capable of giving up the world of Douphol and Flora, even if she is really in love with Alfredo, and whether his love is so idealistic? In this case we shoot arrows more deeply in the ulcers of society. And nothing diminishes the value since the inner conflict becomes enormous, nothing is gained, no more than a self-delusion!
La Traviata sounds like a scenic ballad or a love poem.
But is this love poem not a self-delusion! Let it be self-delusion, but beautiful, which makes us good and benevolent! Ready to sacrifice!
This is Verdi’s romanticism, a romanticism that makes us sympathize with ‘the drama of the soul’.
The social meaning – the society, which is to blame for the fate of the ‘strayed’ woman.
The optimism – together with the tragic culminations. Verdi manages to create contrastive, thrilling episodes of passionate joy from life!
Whether La Traviata was created after a model, who really lived, is less important than the aesthetic fact that Verdi gave birth to La Traviata who really exists, really lives – through the power of his music!
The spheres of imagery are two: the world of balls, crystals, seductive with the artificial glamour and noisy merry-making… and the intimate world of love, a calm haven and last shelter, chosen by the tuberculosis-ridden woman in order to live and die!…
Paradoxical poetry? To be able to run away from your own self in order to find your own self!?… Life is a moment, real happiness – even a shorter moment, but a moment that makes us better. (It is Verdi’s thesis –‘Love makes people more dignified.’)
The reproach and the verdict are, when we see this ‘little world’ destroyed and sold out as well, a bed, a chair, the rest of the objects on the floor…
The end of an ‘insanity’!?
KUZMAN POPOV, Director
Verdi got acquainted with the much talked about novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, as early as 1848, when it was published. It was then that the idea of writing an opera based on it came to his mind. And when in 1852 the composer saw the novel La dame aux Camélias turned into a play, he assigned his regular literary assistant Francesco Maria Piave to write the libretto. The plot of the drama in the libretto was contracted, the names were changed, even the title – La Traviata.
The premiere of the opera took place on 6 March 1853 in Venice and is an example of one of the biggest failures in history. In a letter of 7 March, Verdi wrote to his friend Emanuele Muzio: ‘La Traviata last night was a fiasco. Is it my fault or that of the singers? Only time will tell.’ The reason for the failure was neither in the music, nor in the libretto. Unfortunately, the singers did not live up to the level of the beautiful opera. But as a wise man, Verdi did not even look for the reasons for this disaster. He let time judge. And time did! Soon La Traviata became the most popular of all his operas. It is played in all opera houses in the world today, more that 150 years after its creation.
Evidence for the immortality of this opera are the words said by Alexandre Dumas, fils. After he saw the opera by Verdi, the writer exclaimed: ‘After fifty yeas no one will remember my La dame aux Camélias, but Verdi made it immortal.’