Verdi’s now-popular opera was a fiasco in Venice in 1853, attributable perhaps to the prima donna being noticeably obese, despite apparently wasting with tuberculosis. Soon, however, Verdi’s scandalous love story was on stage contemporaneously at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Covent Garden and Drury Lane.
Piave’s libretto depicts Violetta and Alfredo Germont, the Marguerite and Armand of The Lady with the Camelias by Alexandre Dumas (son of the author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers). The bestseller was based on the short life of the courtesan Marie Duplessis, mistress of a duke, a viscount and a baron – in Paris the ‘oldest profession’, prostitution, was the only way many women could survive, as Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables depicts.
Featuring some of Verdi’s best-loved tunes, such as the ‘Brindisi’ and Violetta’s Sempre libera, La Traviata is enduringly popular. Violetta has been sung by international operatic sopranos such as Patti and Melba, and recently Gheorghiu. Some, like Joan Sutherland, have preferred to stay off-stage and make an opera recording. Domingo and Pavarotti have sung the role of Alfredo.
Written by Michael Steen, author of the acclaimed The Lives and Times of the Great Composers, ‘Short Guides to Great Operas’ are concise, entertaining and easy to read. They are packed with useful information and informed opinion, helping to make you a truly knowledgeable opera-goer, and so maximising your enjoyment of a great musical experience.
Other ‘Short Guides to Great Operas’ that you may enjoy include Rigoletto, Carmen and La Bohème.