Can This Love Survive?

The plot is a familiar one: boy meets girl and they fall in love. The boy’s father does not approve of the relationship and forces the girl to break up with his son. The couple reconciles in the end, but the girl has a terminal illness and dies in his arms.  A few twists to this scenario… the girl is a courtesan (essentially a high-end call girl) and the entire story is sung. Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, La Traviata, opens the season for Pittsburgh Opera and if you have never listened to or seen an opera on stage, this is a good one to explore as a newbie.  It has tunes you will recognize, like the famous drinking song, “Libiamo,” used in several television ads. La Traviata is the opera that is part of the date night for Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in the movie, Pretty Woman.  Is it weird that Vivian (Julia Roberts) is also a call girl and that Edward (Richard Gere) thinks, “Hey, let me take you to an opera that you can relate to on a personal level?” Talk among yourselves about that plot device.

For the opera lover, this masterpiece by Verdi, one of the most-performed operas in the world, provides some of the composer’s most beautiful arias and ensemble pieces.  Even if you have seen it multiple times, you know you want to see it again.

Explore more about La Traviata through the CD, DVD and book recommendations on this list.  If you end up going to see the show at Pittsburgh Opera, I think you may cry at the end just like Vivian did. There’s just nothing like a tragic love story!

La Traviata (1997)

This live recording from La Scala is considered legendary for the committed performance of Maria Callas in the title role.

La Traviata (2005)

Opera superstars Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón sing passionately as the doomed lovers, Violetta and Alfredo.

La Traviata (1999)

This film version directed by Franco Zeffirelli, who also directed the classic film of Romeo and Juliet, features performances by the legendary Teresa Stratas (Violetta), Plácido Domingo (Alfredo) and Cornell MacNeil (Germont).

La Traviata (2015)

Michael Fabiano burst on the opera scene as a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  Now he is one of the busiest tenors in the world of opera.

Traviata et nous (Becoming Traviata)

Over two months in 2011, filmmaker Philippe Béziat follows the development of Jean-François Sivardier’s production of Verdi’s opera La Traviata at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France, starring Natalie Dessay.

Seven Verdi Librettos

Read the script of the opera, in the original Italian and an English translation.

Tragic Manhood and Democracy: Verdi's Voice and the Power of Musical Art

Richard’s book details the sociological elements at play in Verdi’s operas. Specifically, he focuses on patriarchal practices such as codes of honor and how these practices affect personal and political relationships. Violetta, Alfredo and Germont are tragically affected by the demands of their society. This work is a fascinating read.

Verdi, 3rd edition

Budden’s biography of the composer is a wonderful resource.  Budden offers a complete sketch of Verdi’s public and private life.  The chapter, “The High Noon,” discusses the musical details of La Traviata, labeled by Budden as “the best-loved opera in the Verdian canon.”

Verdi: A Biography

Written with the full collaboration of the Verdi family, this biography explores the rich life of Verdi the composer, Italian nationalist, and intensely passionate friend/husband/farmer.

Verdi with a Vengeance: An Energetic Guide to the Life and Complete Works of the King of Opera

Berger explores Verdi’s operas in chronological order, provides biographical information on the composer and discusses his view of the art of Italian opera from the baroque era to the present.  His chapter about La Traviata includes commentary (interspersed throughout a synopsis of the opera) that describes musical motifs and elements of staging. The final section of Berger’s book gives the author’s recommendations of recordings, films and other books about Verdi.