The third of Verdi’s “popular trilogy” (alongside Rigoletto and Il Trovatore), La Traviata is potentially the most beautiful and moving psychological study of all Romantic Italian opera. The work has become an integral part of the Western operatic tradition with its abundance of memorable arias and ensembles, and its rigorous dramatic composition based on Dumas fils’ novel The Lady of the Camellias. The plot revolves around Violetta, a luxury-loving courtisan who falls in love for the first time with the young Alfredo. However, Germont, Alfredo’s father, asks the young girl to give up on this love, despicable in his eyes. She accepts and dies alone from tuberculosis. The story of this woman⁠—sacrificing herself for love and becoming a victim of society⁠—was out of tune with the morality of the time, which would at most have accepted her redemption. 

However, Verdi, according to Luisa Miller, was more interested in psychological subtleties, complex and fragile characters…In La Traviata, Verdi’s choices are not only artistic, but also directly connected with his private life: his partner, Giuseppina Strepponi, fell very sick and, having been widowed once before, he was afraid of losing her. Similarly, the concern for respectability and the moralising aspect of Germont’s character refer to the slander which surroundeded Giuseppina Strepponi who, before marrying Verdi, had been the mistress of impresario Merelli with whom she had a child.

As in Rigoletto and Il Trovatore, the formidable main character dominates the whole opera. In this all-encompassing role, a coloraturo soprano voice is necessary in the first act, a lyric soprano in the second, and a dramatic soprano in the third: a prime reason for why Maria Callas’ performance remains a favorite!

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