La Traviata: Essential Opera
As the melancholy strains of the overture begin, we see Alfredo at his writing desk. It is the one year anniversary of Violetta’s death, and he is still consumed with remorse. To honor her memory and atone for his behavior he pledges to tell her story.
We are swiftly taken back to the evening they met. Violetta welcomes guests to her home, including Flora Bervoix, Marquis d’Obigny, Baron Douphol and Gastone, who has brought along his friend, Alfredo Germont. This young man, having adored Violetta from afar, addresses her with a drinking song, and she joins in the salute to pleasure. As her friends move into the ballroom, Violetta suddenly feels faint and must remain behind. Alfredo returns, concerned for her health, and ardently confesses his love. At first, Violetta protests that love means nothing to her, but Alfredo’s sincerity touches her, and she promises to meet him the next day, giving him a camellia – her symbol. After her guests are gone, Violetta wonders if Alfredo could be the man to fulfill her need for love. But she decides she prefers freedom, though Alfredo’s voice, heard outside, argues in favor of romance.
Within a few months, Alfredo is living with Violetta in a country villa outside Paris. He is blissfully happy, but discovers that Violetta has been selling her possessions to finance their lifestyle. He goes to Paris to rectify the situation, but while he is away, his father, Giorgio Germont, unexpectedly appears and demands that Violetta renounce his son.The scandal of Alfredo’s liaison with a courtesan threatens his young daughter’s engagement. Violetta protests that she and Alfredo are deeply in love. Further, she confesses that she has a serious illness and Alfredo is her only happiness. But Germont is emphatic and eventually convinces her to make this sacrifice for the good of his family. She tells him to wait in the garden, because when Alfredo realizes she is leaving him he will need the comfort of his father. Violetta begins a farewell note to Alfredo when he enters suddenly. She can barely control herself as she repeats how deeply she loves him before rushing out. Alfredo discovers the farewell note as Germont returns to console his son with recollections of family life in Provence. But Alfredo believes that Violetta has thrown him over for another lover and determines to confront her.
Alfredo has followed Violetta back to Paris, where she is attending a soiree at Flora’s home with Baron Douphol, her former lover. Having crashed the party, Alfredo manages to win a small fortune from the Baron at the gambling table. During dinner, Violetta intercepts Alfredo, imploring him to leave before he further angers the Baron. He misunderstands her apprehension and demands that she admit that she loves Douphol. Bound by her promise to Germont, she pretends she does. Now Alfredo calls in the others, denounces Violetta and hurls his winnings at her feet. As the guests rebuke him and Douphol challenges him to a duel, Germont enters and berates his son’s behavior.
The final scene is a few months later. Violetta’s health has steadily declined and she has had to sell almost everything she owns to survive. Alone in her bedroom, Violetta rereads a letter from Germont saying that the Baron was only wounded in the duel with Alfredo, who knows of her sacrifice and is on his way to ask her pardon. But Violetta senses it is too late. Suddenly, Annina, Violetta’s maid, arrives to announce Alfredo’s return. The reunited lovers make plans to leave Paris forever, but in their exuberance, Violetta’s strength ebbs, and it soon becomes clear that the end is very near. Germont enters with the doctor, but it is too late; Violetta makes her farewells. She is seized with a final resurgence of strength and believes that life is returning when she collapses and dies.