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LA TRAVIATA

by Giuseppe Verdi
(1813-1901)

Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave

Based on the play La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils

Conducted by Scott Jackson Wiley
Staged by Linda Lehr

Performed in Italian with English supertitles

Cast - Story


The Cast

Galli-Curci

Amelita Galli-Curci as Violetta

Violetta Valéry, a courtesan Alexis Cregger (June 1 & 9)
Andrea Bargabos (June 2 & 8)
Jessica Sandidge (Cover)
Soprano
Alfredo Germont, her young loverPaolo Buffagni (June 1 & 9)
David Bailey (June 2 & 8)
Tenor
Giorgio Germont, his father Andrew Cummings (June 1 & 9)
Ricardo Rosa (June 2 & 8)
Kevin Rockower (Cover)
Baritone
Baron Douphol, Violetta’s former lover Kevin Rockower (June 1 & 9)
Nathan Owen (June 2 & 8)
Bass
Flora Bervoix, Violetta’s friend Hannah Kramer (June 1 & 9)
Jennie Mescon (June 2 & 8)
Jenny Legary (Cover)
Mezzo-Soprano
Marquis d’Obigny, Flora’s lover John Schenkel (June 1 & 9)
Nicholas Connolly (June 2 & 8)
Bass
Gastone, viscount de Letorières, Violetta’s friend Brian Ribeiro (June 1 & 9)
Ray Calderon (June 2 & 8)
Daniel Kerr (Cover)
Tenor
Doctor Grenvil, Violetta’s physician Jacopo Buora (June 1 & 9)
Jonathan Dauermann (June 2 & 8)
Bass
Annina, Violetta’s maid Lisa Bryce (June 1 & 9)
Christina Hourihan (June 2 & 8)
Nicole Leone (Cover)
Soprano
Giuseppe, Violetta’s servant Daniel Kerr (June 1 & 9)
Brian Ribeiro (June 2 & 8)
Tenor
Commissioner Wayne Olsen (June 1 & 9)
Daniel Kerr (June 2 & 8)
Tenor
Flora’s Servant Daniel Kerr (June 1 & 9)
Wayne Olsen (June 2 & 8)
Tenor

Party guests, servants, dancers.

The Story

La Traviata takes place in and around Paris, about 1850.

Act One

Violetta’s salon

Violetta, a Parisian demimondaine, is having a party at her salon. A number of young men arrive in the wake of Flora, another demimondaine, and Flora’s lover, the Marquis d’Obigny. Violetta’s friend, the Viscount Gastone, introduces young Alfredo Germont to her. Gastone tells her that, during her recent illness, Alfredo had inquired after her daily. Violetta, amused, can’t understand why, and teases her lover, Baron Douphol, that he did not do the same. The Baron explains that he has only known her a year, but she retorts that Alfredo has only known her a few minutes. Flora tells the annoyed Baron that it would have been better for him to have kept silent; he replies that he does not like that young man, but Flora likes him just fine. Gastone, meanwhile, urges the shy Alfredo to speak; Violetta encourages him by pouring him a glass of champagne. Gastone asks the Baron to propose a toast, but the Baron refuses, so Gastone turns to Alfredo, who hesitates until Violetta assures him that it would please her. He then leads everyone in a lively drinking song (“Libiamo”) in which the attraction between him and Violetta becomes clear.

Violetta invites everyone to go to the ballroom for dancing, but is stricken by a fit of dizziness. Although her friends try to help her, she insists that she will be all right, and sends them all into the ballroom. Alone, she looks at herself in the mirror and is shocked to see how pale she is. Alfredo comes up behind her to ask if she is feeling better. She tells him that she is, but he replies that she must take better care of herself, and that, if she were his, he would watch over her all her life. When she brushes this off, saying that no one takes care of her, he answers that that is because no one loves her but he. Now Violetta laughs at him, saying that she had forgotten such a great love. He chides her for being heartless, and, when she replies that she does perhaps have a heart, he responds that if she did, she would not make fun of him, for he has loved her deeply for a year. But she can only offer him friendship, and urges him to forget her (Duet: “Un dì felice”). Gastone bursts at the door to see what’s going on, and is pleased to leave them alone together again. Violetta makes Alfredo promise not to speak of love anymore. He is about to leave in a huff when, taking pity on him, she gives him one of her camellias and asks him to bring it back when it is faded — tomorrow. Alfredo is thrilled, but Violetta still can’t believe that he really loves her. They say their goodbyes just as all the guests come crowding into the salon to make their own farewells.

Left alone, Violetta wonders if she could ever truly be in love, and if it was Alfredo who awakened that unaccustomed feeling in her (“Ah, fors’è lui”). But she casts aside the thought as foolishness. For her, love is an illusion, and she must simply live for pleasure alone — even though Alfredo’s declaration of love still rings in her ears (“Sempre libera”).

Act Two

Scene 1. Violetta’s country house near Paris.

Alfredo and Violetta have now been living together in the country for three months, and he is filled with happiness (“Dei miei bollenti spiriti”). But his rapture is interrupted by the maid Annina, who informs him that Violetta has had to sell her horses, carriage, and other possessions in order to pay for their living expenses. Alfredo is shocked and vows to go to Paris and pay the debt, but forbids Annina to speak of it to Violetta.

Violetta enters from the garden and asks Annina where Alfredo is. Annina tells her only that he has gone to Paris. The servant Giuseppe enters with a letter for Violetta. She tells him that she is expecting a business visitor shortly. The letter is an invitation from Flora to attend her ball that evening, but Violetta has no intention of going. Giuseppe announces the arrival of a gentleman; she asks that he be shown in, as he is the man she is expecting. But, to her surprise, her visitor is Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father. He accuses her of bewitching his son, but she reminds him, with dignity, that she is a lady in her own house. He is impressed by her manner, but tells her that Alfredo wants to bestow his fortune on her. She denies it, saying that he would not dare, for she would refuse, and shows him a paper proving that she has been selling her own possessions to pay their expenses. Astounded, Germont softens toward her and regrets that her past has been scandalous. She loves Alfredo now, she says, and God will forgive her her past. But Germont must ask her to make another sacrifice: to leave his son for the sake of his young daughter, who is about to marry a respectable man (“Pura siccome un angelo”). Violetta thinks that Germont is asking her only to leave Alfredo temporarily, until the marriage takes place, but, to her distress, he tells her that she must leave him forever. But she would rather die than give up her love. Germont reminds her that, while she is young and beautiful now, she will someday lose her looks, and Alfredo, being a man, will become bored with her, especially since their union will not have been blessed by God. As she bemoans her fate, Germont urges her to be a “consoling angel” to his family. Finally, weeping, she gives in, asking Germont to tell his daughter that she, Violetta, will die giving up her only ray of hope to the young girl. Germont pities her, acknowledging the supreme sacrifice she has made and urging her to take courage. He suggests that she tell Alfredo that she no longer loves him, but she replies that he will not believe it, and that if she simply left, he would follow her. She asks Germont to embrace her as a daughter to give her the strength to do what she must do, and to console Alfredo after she has left him. When he asks what she will do, she refuses to tell him, but begs him not to allow Alfredo to curse her memory. He promises that her sacrifice will not go unrewarded, and leaves with a wish that she be happy.

Violetta writes a letter and gives it to Annina to deliver; the maid is surprised at the address, but Violetta commands her to keep silent and deliver it at once. Then Violetta, with difficulty, writes to Alfredo. She is just finishing the letter when Alfredo, apparently concerned about something, enters and asks her what she is doing. When she hesitates, he demands the letter, but she refuses to give it to him. He asks her to forgive him, for he is worried — his father has left him a rather stern note. But he is confident that when his father sees Violetta, he will love her. Violetta becomes agitated and says that Germont must not find her there. She begs Alfredo to love her as she loves him, and rushes off.

Giuseppe hurries in to tell Alfredo that Violetta has taken off for Paris, and that Annina had gone before her. Alfredo tells Giuseppe to calm down, as he knows this already. Alfredo surmises that Violetta has gone to sell more of her possessions, but he is confident that Annina will stop her. A messenger arrives with a letter from a lady in a carriage. Seeing that the letter is from Violetta, Alfredo begins to tremble, and is thunderstruck when he reads the contents. At that moment, his father arrives. Alfredo, weeping, falls into his arms. Germont urges Alfredo to return to his family in Provence (“Di Provenza il mar, il suol”). But Alfredo, enraged by the thought that Violetta is returning to her old lover, Baron Douphol, refuses to listen. He finds Flora’s invitation and rushes off to confront Violetta at the ball.

Scene 2. Flora’s salon in Paris.

At her ball, Flora is looking forward to the masqueraders. She has invited Violetta and Alfredo, but the Marquis tells her that they have separated, and that Violetta is coming with the Baron instead. Surprised, Doctor Grenvil recalls that he had just seen them the day before, and that they had seemed happy. A group of young women costumed as gypsies come in and begin reading the guests’ palms. They tell Flora that she has many rivals, and the Marquis that he is not a model of fidelity. Flora threatens to make the Marquis regret his inconstancy, but the Doctor and some of the gypsies smooth things over. Then Gastone arrives with a group of men dressed as matadors, singing of a brave toreador who loved an Andalusian maiden.

As the guests applaud, Alfredo enters and, when asked where Violetta is, shrugs the question off with an “I don’t know.” He goes with other guests to the gaming tables. Meanwhile, Violetta arrives with the Baron. He points Alfredo out to her and orders her not to say a word to him. Seeing Violetta’s distress, Flora takes her aside and asks her what has happened. As they talk, Alfredo is winning at cards, and loudly proclaims that one who is unlucky in love is lucky at gambling. He also announces that he will go back to the country to enjoy his winnings with the woman who left him. The Baron nearly calls him out, but a warning word from Violetta makes him offer to gamble against Alfredo instead. Alfredo wins over and over, until supper is announced. The two vow to continue their “game” later as everyone files out.

Violetta returns, alone, having asked Alfredo to come speak to her, and knowing that he will come because he hates her now. He comes, and coldly asks her what she wants. She urges him to leave, as he is in danger. He taunts her with the idea that, if he kills the Baron in a duel, she will be left without a lover or a keeper. But she fears only Alfredo’s death. Alfredo doesn’t believe her at first, then promises to leave only if she comes with him. She refuses, telling him that she took a sacred oath to leave him. He asks her whether she made the promise to the Baron; with extreme difficulty, she tells him, “Yes,” and when he asks whether she loves the Baron, she tells him that she does. Furious, Alfredo calls in all the guests, tells them that she had spent all her money on him, and that now he must repay her. He flings his winnings at Violetta, who faints in Flora’s arms. All the guests denounce him.

Meanwhile, Giorgio Germont has already arrived and seen what Alfredo has done. He expresses his contempt for Alfredo, as the young man struggles with remorse. The Baron challenges him to a duel. Violetta, recovering under the ministrations of her friends, tells Alfredo that he cannot understand how much she loves him and what she has done for that love. She forgives him as Germont leads him away.

Act Three

Violetta’s bedroom in Paris.

Violetta is asleep. She wakes and asks Annina, who has dozed off in a nearby chair, to bring her some water and to let a little light in the room. As she does so, Annina sees Doctor Grenvil approaching. Violetta is happy at the prospect of seeing a true friend, and asks Annina to help her up. The doctor asks her how she is; she says that, although she is suffering physically, she has taken spiritual comfort in religion. The doctor assures her that she will soon be better, but she playfully accuses him of lying. As he says goodbye, she asks him not to forget her. At the door, Annina quietly asks the doctor how Violetta is; he replies that her consumption will give her only a few more hours. Violetta asks Annina whether it is a holiday; Annina tells her that it is Carnival time. Violetta thinks of those who are suffering during the festivities, and tells Annina to give to the poor half of the money she has left.

When Annina leaves, Violetta takes out a letter from Giorgio Germont, reporting that the Baron was wounded in the duel, and that Alfredo has gone abroad. Germont has told Alfredo of her sacrifice, and promises that both of them will come to her. But it is late, and they have not yet come. Looking in the mirror, she sees how much she has changed, and how little hope she has of recovery (“Addio del passato”).

Outside, a group of masqueraders celebrates Carnival and its symbol, the fattened ox. Annina returns, anxiously asking her mistress whether she feels better, for she wants to prepare her for a joyful surprise. But Violetta has guessed that Alfredo has returned, and as he rushes in she flings herself into his arms. They beg each other’s forgiveness and vow never to part (“Parigi, o cara”). Violetta wants to go to a church to give thanks for Alfredo’s return, but she is too weak even to dress. Alfredo sends Annina for the doctor. Violetta cannot believe that she must die just when happiness is within her grasp (“Ah, gran Dio! Morir sì giovine”).

Giorgio Germont now arrives, followed by Doctor Grenvil and Annina. Germont, keeping his promise, embraces Violetta as a daughter. But she tells him that it is too late, for she is dying, though she is grateful to die among those who are dearest to her in the world. Germont is consumed with remorse. Violetta, meanwhile, presses a miniature portrait of herself into the grieving Alfredo’s hand and asks him that, if he should marry, he give it to his bride and tell her that it is a portrait of one who is in heaven praying for them both (“Prendi: quest’è l’immagine”). Then, suddenly, she rises; all her pain is gone, she is strong again and returning to life — but as she cries out with joy, she falls lifeless.

© 1997 Linda Cantoni