Discover the story of Verdi's La traviata
A parisian party
Society courtesan Violetta Valéry is hosting a party. Among the guests is a young stranger, Alfredo Germont, who has long adored Violetta from afar. He gives a toast – a rousing drinking song. The guests move into another room, leaving Violetta alone. Overcome with a fainting fit she begs them to leave her to rest.
An unexpected encounter
Violetta is suddenly aware that Alfredo has stayed behind with her. He warns that her hedonistic lifestyle will kill her, and tells her that if he were her lover that he would protect her. Violetta laughs off his passionate declarations; she can only offer her friendship. But as he leaves she offers him a flower, making him promise to bring it back the next day. The guests say their goodbyes. Much struck by Alfredo’s words, Violetta expresses her longing to love and be loved – something she has never experienced. But quickly she dismisses the thought. She must be free to enjoy herself.
The not-so-simple life
Violetta and Alfredo have left Paris for countryside. But their happiness is short-lived. Violetta’s maid Anina enters, revealing that she is going to sell her mistress’s jewels and carriage to help pay for their lifestyle. Alfredo is ashamed, and vows to make amends.
Violetta is alone when Alfredo’s father, Germont, arrives unexpectedly. He asks her to leave his son, to spare him the shame of an alliance with a courtesan. He tells her of his younger daughter whose fiancé would end their engagement if Violetta does not. She yields, asking only that, one day, Germont tells his son of her sacrifice.
Violetta writes two letters: one to her former lover, Baron Douphol, another to Alfredo. Just as she is finishing he arrives, and she begs him to love her.
Alfredo is now alone. A servant enters with a letter from Violetta; she has returned to her old life in Paris. His father enters to comfort him, but Alfredo will not be swayed and departs for Paris.
Alfredo arrives at Flora’s party and heads straight to the card table. When Violetta enters with the Baron the tension rises. Douphol challenges Alfredo to a card game, but Alfredo wins.
Violetta asks Alfredo to leave the party to avoid a quarrel. When she tells him (untruthfully) that she loves Douphol he becomes angry. He hurls his winnings at her as repayment for his debt. Horrified, she sinks to the ground in a faint just as Alfredo’s horrified father enters.
The beginning of the end
Dying of consumption, Violetta is alone with her faithful maid Anina. The doctor tries to comfort her, but confesses privately to Anina that she only has hours to live. Violetta reads a letter from Germont. He tells her that Alfredo and the Baron fought a duel, but both survived. Alfredo now knows of her sacrifice and is coming to ask her forgiveness. She knows it is too late for happiness, and wistfully bids farewell to her hopes.
Alfredo arrives and begs for forgiveness. Caught in the moment, the lovers forget themselves and plan a happy future together. But when Violetta tries to get up she collapses. Horrified, Alfredo sends Anina for the doctor. He arrives with Germont. Alfredo embraces Violetta, begging her not to die. She recovers briefly, filled with new energy. But her strength is short-lived, and she suddenly collapses and dies.
Image credits: La traviata, Festival 2014, photos by Richard Hubert Smith