In a remarkable career spanning six decades in the theatre, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) composed 28 operas, at least half of which are at the core of today’s repertoire.
With La Traviata, Verdi and his librettist Francesco Maria Piave (1810-1876) fashioned an opera from a play set in contemporary times – an exception for Verdi whose operas usually had historical subjects.
La Traviata is based on the novel and play La Dame aux Camelias by Alexandre Dumas fils (1824-1895) who was the son of the author of The Three Musketeers.
Dumas’s La Dame aux Camelias was a meditation on the author’s youthful affair with the celebrated prostitute Marie Duplessis, known as a sophisticated and well-read woman whose charms and tact far surpassed her station.
The play is still staged today in its original form and exists in several film incarnations, most notably Greta Garbo’s Camille in the 1936 film of the same name.
Following the larger-scale dramas of Rigoletto and Il Trovatore, La Traviata is intimate in scope and subject matter and inspired Verdi to create some of his most profound and heartfelt music.
The title role of the “fallen woman” has captured the imagination of audiences and performers alike with its inexhaustible vocal and dramatic possibilities and challenges. Violetta is considered a pinnacle of the soprano repertoire.
Sonya Yoncheva sings the role of this most beloved of heroines, the tragic courtesan Violetta, a role in which she triumphed on the Met stage in 2015.
Alfredo, her lover, is Michael Fabiano, and Thomas Hampson is his father, Germont. The conductor is Nicola Luisotti with the production by Willy Decker.
Violetta Valery knows that she will die soon, exhausted by her restless life as a courtesan. At a party she is introduced to Alfredo Germont, who has been enquiring after her health every day.
The guests are amused by this seemingly naïve and emotional attitude, and they ask Alfredo to propose a toast. In this famous drinking song he celebrates true love, and Violetta responds in praise of free love.
She is touched by his candid manner and honesty. The story develops from there into the ups and downs of love, misunderstanding, sacrifice and, ultimately, compassion and forgiveness.
“Be prepared for this opera’s sublime emotional music but especially for the heart wrenching ending that will surely require tissues,” says opera enthusiast Gabriele Klein.
La Traviata plays at 9:55 a.m. Saturday, March 11 at the Salmar Classic Theatre.