One of the most treasured operas of all time, La traviata is told in waltz time, giving us the life of the most beautiful woman in Paris. Dancing away her days, Violetta survives on the generosity of the wealthiest men of France, living in luxury until she meets Alfredo Germont, who, having nothing, offers her love instead. For a short spring, she and Alfredo live an idyllic life in the country until his father convinces her that their relationship is harming Alfredo’s sister. She gives him up and returns to a man who has kept her in the past, and everything crashes down around her. Verdi created one of the world’s most successful works for the stage when he penned the perennial La traviata.
ACT I, Paris 1887: Violetta Valéry’s salon
Violetta, a beautiful courtesan, is hosting a party to celebrate her recovery from an illness. Her patron, the Baron Douphol is in attendance. Gastone (viscount of Letorieres) has brought along his friend, Alfredo, a young man who has long admired Violetta from afar. When they are introduced, Alfredo raises a toast to her health with a spirited brindisi (“Libiamo ne’ lieti calici”—Let’s drink to happiness). As her guests move to the ballroom to dance, Violetta suffers a fainting spell. She sends everyone on ahead, and sits a moment to recover. Alfredo returns, and confesses that he has loved her since the day he first saw her (“Un dì, felice, eterea”—You were so radiant, so lovely). At first, she protests that love means nothing to her, but something about Alfredo charms her. She hands him a camellia and asks that he return when the flower has wilted. Alone, Violetta muses on the possiblity of finding true love (“Ah fors’ è lui”—Could he be the one?), but concludes that freedom to live her life trumps her need for love (“Sempre libera”—Always free). Alfredo’s voice is heard in the distance singing about the marvels of love, highlighting the conflict in Violetta’s heart.
ACT II (Countryside near Paris, three months later)
In love with Alfredo, Violetta has abandoned her urban life and moved away from Paris with him. Alfredo sings of their blissful domestic happiness (“De’ miei bollenti spiriti”—My former youthful ardor). When their maid, Annina, returns from Paris, Alfredo discovers that Violetta has been secretly selling her posessions to support their lavish lifestyle. His pride wounded, Alfredo leaves immediately to recover her belongings and repay their debts. Violetta comes into the house looking for Alfredo and a servant delivers a party invitation from her friend Flora. Violetta is amused, as she has no intention of returning to her social life in the city. Her cheerful mood is brought to an end with the unexpected arrival of Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father. Although impressed by Violetta’s noble demeanor, he demands that she break off her relationship with Alfredo, explaining that their scandalous affair has threatened his younger daughter’s engagement (“Pura siccome un angelo”—As pure as an angel). Violetta begs him not to demand such a sacrifice, but finally agrees to separate from Alfredo (“Dite alla giovine”—Tell your daughter). After Germont leaves, she sends an acceptance to Flora and begins to write a farewell letter to Alfredo, who returns abruptly. She hides the note and tries to excuse her excited state by tearfully asking him to love her no matter what the future holds (“Amami, Alfredo”—Love me, Alfredo), before rushing from the house. Puzzled by her behavior, Alfredo sits down to await the expected arrival of his father. A messenger delivers Violetta’s letter just as Germont returns to console his son (Di Provenza il mar, il suol—The sea and soil of Provence). Alfredo immediately suspects that Violetta has gone back to her former patron, and bent on jealous revenge, leaves to confront her at Flora’s party.
ACT III (Back in Paris, a few days later)
Flora Bervoix’s Salon. Guests are enjoying a lavish masquerade and entertainment. Flora is surpised to learn from the Marquis that Violetta and Alfredo have separated. The overwrought Alfredo arrives, and begins gambling recklessly. Violetta arrives with Baron Douphol who, challenged by Alfredo, joins him at the gaming table and soon loses a small fortune to him. Supper is announced and Violetta remains behind to speak with Alfredo. She cautions him not to provoke the Baron, and implores him to leave. Misunderstanding her motives, Alfredo calls back the guests and denouncing Violetta, declares that he is repaying his debt. Arriving unexpectedly, Germont reprimands his son for so dishonorably humiliating a woman (“Di sprezzo degno sè stesso rende”—No man of honor insults a woman). Baron Douphol challenges Alfredo to a duel as the guests witness it all in horror.
ACT IV (Violetta’s bedroom)
Violetta’s health has gravely deteriorated. Dr. Grenvil tries to cheer her, but as he departs, confides to Annina that her mistress has but a few hours to live. Alone, Violetta reads a letter from Germont, describing the outcome of the duel, and saying that he has informed Alfredo of her sacrifice and that his son is on his way to beg her forgiveness. Sensing that the end is near, she bids farewell to her days of happiness (“Addio, del passato”—Farewell, beautiful dreams). Annina rushes in to alert Violetta of Alfredo’s arrival. The lovers are reunited, and Alfredo suggests that they leave Paris (“Paragi, o cara, noi lasceremo”). Violetta struggles to stand, but cannot; realizing the gravity of her illness, Alfredo calls for the doctor. Violetta appeals to God not to let her die, now that happiness is so near (“Ah, Gran Dio! morir sì giovine”—Ah, dear Lord! To die so young). Germont arrives, followed by the doctor. Violetta gives Alfredo a locket as a token of her love (“Prendi, quest’è l’immagine”—Take this portrait). Violetta is filled with a surge of strength. Feeling life return, she falls dead in Alfredo’s arms.
Introduction to Opera
At 6:30 before evening performances and at 1:30 before matinees, a free talk will be presented in the California Theatre that will acquaint you with the composer’s life, his place in the history of opera, the story and its characters. If you are attending the 1:30 or 6:30 Introduction, you must be ticketed for that day’s performance; and your ticket must be torn as you enter the building.
A one-hour preview for each 2017-18 production is presented free of charge in the third floor rehearsal hall of the California Theatre, located at 345 S. First Street (NEW LOCATION). Please enter via Market Street entrance and take elevator to third floor. Moderated by GD Larry Hancock, the preview includes a lecture and performances by OSJ artists. Dates for previews are as follows:
- Così fan tutte: August 29, 2017
- La rondine: October 31, 2017
- The Flying Dutchman: January 30, 2018
- La traviata: April 3, 2018
All previews begin at 12 noon.
Opera at Your Doorstep Lecture Series
Increase your understanding of opera and enjoy upcoming Opera San José performances all the more by attending one of longtime OSJ subscriber Bradford Wade’s FREE previews. Dates for La traviata lecture talks will be announced in March 2018. For more information about the Opera at Your Doorstep Lecture Series and/or to RSVP, email OperaAtYourDoorstep@gmail.com.
Performances of La traviata are made possible, in part, by a grant from the City of San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs.