English Key Stage 3
Objective: To understand and summarise the plot
Ask the students to read the synopsis of the opera. At first, it might seem fairly complex, however like all good stories, it can be distilled down into something far simpler.
Have the students imagine that they have been asked to write a synopsis of their own, perhaps for a programme, with a strict word count of 100 words. See if they can write this synopsis without missing any of the essential plot developments (they might, for example, decide that some of the minor characters are not important enough to mention at all.)
Objective: To understand and explore different characters’ journeys
When opera singers prepare a role, they often like to think about their character’s ‘journey’. This means the specific series of thoughts and events that happen to their character between the opera’s beginning and end.
In pairs, have the students choose who will be exploring Alfredo’s character and who will explore Violetta’s. Ask the students to plot their chosen character’s ‘journey’, using key episodes of either thought or action which they think are significant for their character’s story and compare the two characters’ journeys. Where do they differ? Why are those moments important? Are these moments when interesting scenes might be written?
Objective: To explore how operas are structured
Operas are often organised into set pieces – duets, arias and big chorus numbers for example. Asking the students to use their character’s ‘journey’:
- Look again at the key episodes that they chose for their character. What set piece would they choose for each episode? Would it be a duet, aria or big ensemble number?
- Which other characters would be on stage at these moments?
- Ensure the students justify their choices. Why have they made them?
- Listen to this section of Violetta’s aria ‘Sempre Libera’ . After meeting Alfredo, she is weighing up whether she should continue her life of careless pleasure, or allow herself to fall in love with him.
- Assign the students another moment from their character’s ‘journey’, and write the words for an aria that they might sing at that point. To help, here is an example of an English translation of one of the arias from La traviata.
Have the students consider:
- Ask the students to reflect on what the words of their ‘aria’ show us about the thoughts of the character? Keeping in mind that it has to be sung in the first person.