La traviata Synopsis and Further Reading

La traviata Synopsis

Violetta Valéry, the renowned courtesan, is suffering from the final stages of consumption. As she languishes in a sanatorium, she relives moments from her brief, tumultuous life.

When Alfredo Germont arrives at a party at her home, she is surprised by his devotion and concern. Alfredo leads a toast to love; Violetta responds with a toast to pleasure. Feeling faint, she excuses herself to rest. Alfredo follows, begging her to allow him to love and care for her. She tells him she is not interested in commitment, but invites him to return the next day. Alone, she wonders if she is capable of real love, but dismisses the idea as nonsense.

Three months later, Violetta and Alfredo are living together outside Paris. After learning that she plans to sell her belongings to maintain their country retreat, Alfredo goes to Paris to pay their debts. While he is away, Giorgio Germont visits and begs Violetta to leave Alfredo, his son, arguing that her association with the family will ruin his daughter’s prospects. Violetta, moved and heartbroken, writes to Alfredo and tells him she no longer loves him. When Alfredo receives the letter, he is devastated; his father’s attempts to console him are unsuccessful.

Violetta attends a party with her new protector, Baron Douphol. Violetta pulls Alfredo aside and begs him to leave; he refuses and threatens to duel with the Baron. To avoid breaking her promise to the elder Germont, Violetta insists that she loves the Baron. Furious and hurt, Alfredo calls the guests together and publicly insults Violetta.

Violetta, returning to the present, rereads a letter from Giorgio Germont. According to the letter, Alfredo went abroad after dueling with the Baron; his father wrote to him to explain Violetta’s sacrifice.

Alfredo arrives, asking forgiveness and pledging eternal love. Violetta expresses hope for their future together, but she is very weak. Alfredo sends Annina for the Doctor. He arrives with Giorgio Germont, who reproaches himself for his earlier behavior toward Violetta. He asks forgiveness and pledges to accept her as a daughter, but he is too late.

Further Reading

The Real Traviata: The tragic true story that inspired La traviata In his article for the Royal Opera House in London, René Weis chronicles the numerous artistic works inspired by the life and death of courtesan Marie Duplessis – the inspiration for Verdi’s Violetta.

Pretty woman: The reality behind the myth of Camille Though her life has since been romanticized and glamorized, Marie Duplessis lived a difficult and upsetting life. Lyn Gardner at The Guardian reminds us of Marie’s true-life conditions and draws parallels to contemporary adaptations that continue to neglect the dark side of her biography.

Camille (La dame aux camélias) Project Gutenberg hosts the complete text of Alexandre Dumas, fils’ play that inspired Verdi’s La traviata.

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