Giuseppe Verdi

La Traviata, opera

    Description by Richard LeSueur

    The last of the three great operas of Giuseppe Verdi's middle period, La Traviata is now one of his most popular works. Written for the Teatro la Fenice in Venice, it was first heard on March 6, 1853. The libretto, by Francesco Maria Piave, details the ill-fated love affair between a young gentleman named Alfredo Germont and a terminally ill courtesan named Violetta. It is based on the play La dame aux camélias by Alexander Dumas, Jr., which premiered the previous year.

    Perhaps surprisingly, La Traviata's opening night was a fiasco. Legend gives two reasons for the failure: the generous size of the soprano (supposedly dying of consumption!) and the use of a contemporary stage setting, which was considered distasteful at the time (subsequent performances were re-set in the 1700s; the reinstatement of Verdi's original conception did not occur until the 1880s). Verdi withdrew the opera and, after making significant changes in the second and third acts, premiered the new version at the Teatro Gallo di San Benedetto in 1854. It is in this version that the opera has enjoyed its continued success.

    In many ways, La Traviata follows the established operatic traditions of the 1850s. Each act is composed of smaller dramatic units made up of traditional set pieces in clearly identifiable forms (a structure known as la solita forma), and each of the three major characters is given a two-part aria (slow-fast) which displays a change of the character's mood. (For many years the cabalettas for Alfredo and Giorgio Germont were omitted not only in the theater but also on recording. By the 1980s, one verse of the cabaletta for Alfredo began to be heard in the theater on a more regular basis but Giorgio Germont's cabaletta has not made its way to most stages.) Also, like its predecessor, Rigoletto, La Traviata has a full overture -- a device that would make only rare appearances in Verdi's later works.

    However, in other ways La Traviata begins to stretch, and expand upon, the mid- nineteenth century Italian norms. This is especially evident in the depth of characterization written into the role of Violetta. Formal musical concerns, while still evident, begin to take a backseat to more immediate dramatic issues. In the first act alone, Verdi takes the character of Violetta from the gregarious hostess of the opening drinking song to the intimate lover of "Un di felice" and "Ah, fors' e lui" to the wild abandon of the courtesan in "Sempre libera." In the final act -- as she succumbs to her disease and dies -- she sings only a few gasped lines, rather than the full double aria which would be found in most operas of Verdi's predecessors. The other roles are not as well defined, but Alfredo and Giorgio Germont far outstrip the one-dimensional characters encountered in most operas of this period. Although there are opportunities for pure vocal display in their arias, even these displays are tied to the character. For example, Alfredo's "O mio rimorso" shows the impetuosity of youth as he runs off to save the good name of his beloved.

    Verdi's use of the traditional forms in combination with a new dramatic conviction would lead to the more dramatic style of his later operas. This delicate blend of old and new styles is perhaps what has kept La Traviata ever fresh and appealing in modern opera houses.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Prelude
    2. No. 2, Dell'invito trascorsa è già l'ora
    3. No. 3, Libiamo, ne'lieti calici [Brindisi]
    4. No. 4a, Che è cio?
    5. No. 4b, Un dì, felice, eterea
    6. No. 5, Si ridesta in ciel
    7. No. 6a, È strano! È strano!
    8. No. 6b, Ah fors'è lui quest'anima
    9. No. 6c, Follie! Sempre libera
    10. No. 7a, Lunge da Lei
    11. No. 7b, Dei miei bollenti spiriti
    12. No. 7c, [Annina, donde vieni...] O mio rimorso!
    13. No. 8a, Madamigella Valéry?
    14. No. 8b, Pura siccome un angelo
    15. No. 8c, Bella voi siete
    16. No. 8d, Dite alla giovine
    17. No. 9a, Morrò! La mia memoria
    18. No. 9b, Dammi tu forza o Cielo
    19. No. 10a, Al vive sol quel core
    20. No. 10b, Di Provenza il mar
    21. No. 10c, Ne rispondi
    22. No. 11, Avrem lieta di maschera la festa
    23. No. 12a, Noi siamo zingarelle
    24. No. 12b, Di Madride noi siam Mattadori
    25. No. 13, Alfredo! Voi!
    26. No. 14a, Ogni suo aver tal femmina
    27. No. 14b, Di sprezzo degno!
    28. No. 15, Prelude
    29. No. 16a, Annina? Commandate?
    30. No. 16b, Teneste la promessa
    31. No. 16c, Addio del passato
    32. No. 17, Bacchanale. Largo al quadrupede
    33. No. 18a, Signora, Che t'accade
    34. No. 18b, Parigi, o cara noi lasceremo
    35. No. 18c, Gran Dio! morir sì giovine
    36. No. 19, Ah! Violetta

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Warner Classics 0825646483181
    2016 Urania / Urania Records WS 121145
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 ZYX Classics CLABOX 039
    2015 IDIS IDIS 67023
    2015 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 88875051922
    2014 Warner Classics 634085
    2014 Membran / Saifam MMB 1005
    2014 Urania / Urania Records WS 121216
    2013 Sony Classical 88883721202
    2013 Warner Classics
    2013 United Classics T2CD 2012061
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099941674
    2012 Krescendo Records / Zebralution
    2012 Cetra 2564662115
    2012 Decca 4784171
    2012 C Sounds DDPBCL 1288
    2012 Decca
    2012 Opera Australia OPOZ 56031CD
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099931928
    2011 Orfeo / Orfeo D'Or C 816112I
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779336
    2011 Decca
    2011 Decca
    2011 ICA Classics 5006
    2011 Myto Records MCD 00297
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Classics & Jazz / Universal Classics & Jazz
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4779111
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal 477 882-6
    2010 SoloVoce 8553203
    2009 Elite Special / Zebralution
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 001303802
    2009 Opus KURA 7044/5
    2009 Document / Documents 224105
    2009 Paperback Opera 20054
    2009 Myto Records 00218
    2009 Membran 231751
    2009 ZYX Music 10075
    2009 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099996685
    2009 World of Classic / Zebralution
    2009 Sony BMG 88697581422
    2008 Myto Historical 147
    2008 Myto Records 00145
    2008 IDIS 6541/42
    2008 Philips 4649822
    2008 FARAO Classics 108070
    2008 EMI Classics 5096942
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099950969
    2008 Gala Records 100.777
    2008 Vai 4434
    2007 BRV 9810
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 4777115
    2007 BRV 9909
    2007 BRV 9906
    2007 Allegro Corporation 9910
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946395918
    2007 Fonit-Cetra Records
    2007 Fonit Cetra Archives 698772
    2007 BRV 9807
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon
    2007 Myto Records 00134
    2007 Belair Classiques BAC205
    2007 Decca B0010100-09
    2007 BRV 9801
    2006 Opera D'Oro 5601
    2006 RCA Red Seal 67893
    2006 EMI Music Distribution 67726
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon
    2006 Myto Records 62111
    2006 RCA 82623
    2006 Ponto 1042
    2006 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2006 Golden Melodram 60018
    2006 Decca 455895
    2006 Decca 000717302
    2006 Warner Classics
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000618800
    2005 Guild Historical GHCD2305/6
    2005 Testament 1369
    2005 Pearl 228
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 ZYX Music 4602
    2005 Living Stage 1112
    2005 Capriccio Records 51204
    2005 EMI Classics 475388
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000529
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 00289 477 0772
    2004 Opera D'Oro 7009
    2004 Archipel 0229
    2004 Arts Music 43031
    2004 Music & Arts 4271
    2004 Naxos 866092224
    2003 Aura Classics 1123
    2003 Arte Nova 39123
    2003 Myto Records 24268
    2003 Sony Classical 90457
    2002 Decca 470440
    2002 IDIS 6367/8
    2002 Opera D'Oro 1306
    2001 Opera D'Oro E
    2001 Opera D'Oro 5004
    2001 Testament 2211
    2001 Naxos 110110-11
    2001 Archipel 18
    2001 Melodram 60009
    2001 Opera D'Oro 1279
    2001 Opera D'Oro 1276
    2001 Fono Enterprise 1029-30
    2000 Golden Melodram 20016
    2000 Hommage 7001842
    2000 Arkadia 2019
    2000 Campion Records 1350/51
    2000 Opera D'Oro 9002
    2000 Golden Melodram 60002
    2000 Opera D'Oro 1263
    2000 Teldec 82741
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 73824
    2000 Opera D'Oro 1226
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 445822
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 63628
    1999 EMI/Black Dog 19966
    1999 Minerva Records 28
    1999 Chandos 3023
    1999 London 430250
    1998 Golden Melodram 20015
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459 069-2GCC12
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 459039
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 66450
    1998 Bongiovanni 2530/31
    1998 Preiser Records 90354
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 453115
    1998 London 460 759-2DF2
    1997 Grammofono 2000 78744/46
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 56330
    1997 Arkadia 78028
    1997 RCA 902668885
    1997 Grammofono 2000 78700
    1996 VAI Audio 1108
    1996 Forties 331.32
    1996 Arkadia 78001
    1996 Vox 5154
    1996 Capriccio Records 10274
    1995 Madacy 7600
    1995 Madacy 5102
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 67180
    1995 London 448119
    1995 The 40's Label 313.14
    1995 EMI Music Distribution 68950
    1995 Laserlight 14279
    1995 Eclipse Records 60118
    1995 Myto Records 89003
    1994 Madacy 5123
    1994 Naxos 660011-12
    1994 Decca 443000
    1993 Philips 438238
    1993 Deutsche Grammophon 435797
    1993 Orfeo 344932
    1993 Sony Classical 52486
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 67576
    1992 Teldec 76348
    1991 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Music Classics and Jazz
    1991 Universal Classics & Jazz
    1991 London 430491
    1991 RCA 60303
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 69827
    1988 London 411877
    1987 EMI Music Distribution 49187
    1986 Deutsche Grammophon
    1985 Deutsche Grammophon 415 132-2GH2
    Minerva Records 13
    BMG 61044
    London 410154
    Golden Melodram 27510
    Fonit-Cetra Italia 9
    Enterprise 1002
    Arkadia 953
    Atra 271
    Mondo Musica 10802
    Foyer Records 2049
    Golden Age of Opera 103
    Arkadia 462
    Eklipse 60523
    Legato Classics 160
    Capriccio Records 274/275
    Gala Records 100506
    RCA 4144
    Melodram 26019
    Golden Age of Opera 191
    Fonit-Cetra Italia 2
    Music & Arts 271
    Document 961/62
    Melodram 270106
    6w 42
    G.Z. Classics 394
    Arkadia 465
    Enterprise 961
    Le Monde de l'Opera 02
    EMI Music Distribution 67577
    Enterprise 313
    Memories 4404
    EMI Music Distribution 47059
    Standing Room Only 810
    Legend 125
    Pilz 41644
    Disky 710
    Deutsche Grammophon 439720
    Grammofono 2000 78640
    Deutsche Grammophon 000894002
    Rca Red Seal 70778
    RCA 6180
    Frequenz Compact Discs 43006
    Eklipse 2
    Foyer Records 2001
    Madacy 7603/1-2
    Legend 125126
    The Radio Years 64
    Video Land 121
    UNT College of Music
    UNT College of Music
    Artists 04546