I'm off tonight to see La Traviata at Ottawa's National Arts Centre and I have high hopes. I love Verdi's music for La Traviata and although I've seen this opera several times, I haven't gotten tired of it yet. Opera Lyra, the city's opera company, has been having a good year and since tonight is opening night, there should be a little extra excitement in the air. (In addition to the snow, which continues to fall!)
The story, told in three acts, is pretty basic: courtesan Violetta Valéry is having a party when a new admirer shows up, Alfredo Germont. The pair begin flirting over the drinking song (Brindisi: “Libiamo”) and after a time, Alfredo declares his love for her. She tries to put him off, explaining that she isn't looking for love, just a life of pleasure. (She also has a fainting spell, which foreshadows the ending) But Alfredo persists and eventually, she agrees to spend some time with him.
After three months together, Alfred realizes Violetta has been selling her possessions to gain enough money to keep her house. Alfredo dashes off to Paris to help settle her finances, and while he's gone, his father Giorgio Germont arrives to demand that Violetta end her affair with Alfredo. The scandal of their relationship has threatened Germont’s daughter’s engagement and that's enough to convince Violetta that she can't build her happiness on the ruins of other people's lives, so she agrees to ditch Alfredo.
She sends her love a farewell note, which Alfredo receives at the same time he is visiting his father. Giorgio tries to convince his son to come home to Provence (I love Giorgio's song here, Di Provenza) but Alfredo becomes convinced he has been abandoned by Violetta for a new man. He rushes off to find her and confront her.
An angry, bitter Alfredo finds Violetta hosting a Spanish soiree party where he makes a scene, humiliates Violetta in front of everyone, earning a rebuke form his father, who seems to have followed Alfredo. Everyone parts in anger.
You can guess how the story ends. Six months elapse during which time, Violetta, who has never been physically strong, is near death with TB. She receives a letter from Giorgio Germont, who says that Alfredo now understands everything and is coming to beg her pardon. But she knows it's too late and while she briefly pretends with Alfredo that all will be well, it isn't. Poor Violetta gives up her life for a great, finale death scene.