La traviata

Giuseppe Verdi

Opera in four acts 
Libretto: Francesco Maria Piave after La Dame aux camèlias by Alexandre Dumas fils
Polish premiere: 27 April 1856, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw
Premiere of this production: 25 February 2010, Polish National Opera, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw
In the original Italian with Polish surtitles

The world premiere of La traviata turned out to be a success equal to the premiere of Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s Quo vadis?: Verdi got hot under the collar, the audience did not get the figure of the noble courtesan on stage, the singers sang terribly and most of what could have gone wrong did so. Two years later, slightly air-brushed traviata returned to opera as Violetta, this time to great acclaim. While following the process behind La traviatas creation, let us consider an episode from the early 20th century, when realism in opera performances was advocated. Violetta already from the beginning of the first act is unhealthy, and dies racked by consumption. Meanwhile some of the leading ladies did not fit within the postulate because of their – at times – monumental bearing. The call for realism fizzled out quite rightly, but paradoxically in Treliński’s beautiful staging the leading ladies are exactly what the theorists had once dreamt of. Even an advanced ironist becomes moved while hearing Addio del passato.



Chorus and Orchestra of the Polish National Opera


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    Act I

    Paris: city of fun, hub of the universe. In that city lives Violetta – the queen of good living. She is faithful to one rule, that freedom is the most important thing of all. She doesn’t want to love, because love means loss of freedom. A protégée of the wealthy Douphol, she is a star of the cabaret, the most fashionable venue in town. Alfredo, who has escaped from his native countryside, arrives one night. Stunned, he immediately falls in love with Violetta. In a world where no one remembers about monogamy, his genuine love actually seems grotesque, naïve. Alfredo raises his glass in a passionate toast to one and only true love. Violetta, on the other hand, joins in the praise of good fun, but a deadly disease causes her to collapse before everybody’s eyes. What a shock, this is no place for dying, here you may at best play games with death. Alfredo is truly concerned about Violetta’s state, he takes care of her, proposes to her, speaks of his love. Violetta resists his love, but…

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    Act II

    An escape from the city, from the vanity fair. Violetta and Alfredo at a luxury villa. Three months have passed since they left Paris. Alfredo has changed greatly, he is now used to a lavish lifestyle and has lost his provincial humility. From Annina, Violetta’s maid, he learns that his lover has been selling off her assets to cover the costs of living during their luxury holiday from life. Alfredo realizes he has become a kept man. He goes to Paris to prevent his lover’s ruin, and meanwhile Violetta receives a visit from Germont – Alfredo’s father, who vehemently opposes his son’s relationship with a prostitute. He absolutely demands that Violetta give up Alfredo. Their relationship is jeopardizing his daughter’s advantageous marriage. Violetta, who has been expecting to be punished for her unexpected happiness, agrees. Feeling wretched, she immediately leaves for Paris. She writes a farewell letter – her lover has to believe she has been unfaithful and start hating her. Alfredo returns to the country, finds Violetta gone but also finds the letter and his father there. Germont persuades his son to return to his family. Instead, his son wants to find Violetta at once and take revenge for her infidelity.

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    Act III

    In Paris it is the carnival, a time of masks and costumes. For Violetta, however, it is not the same city. Paris has become terrifying. It has turned into an arena where Violetta will commit a kind of public suicide. Gypsies who foretell love, to her are a sign of the inevitability of her destiny. Matadors are sophisticated, perverse killers. Violetta interrupts her performance. Just then, Alfredo appears; he is playing cards for high stakes, for Violetta in a sense, hoping to return to the country together, to repay his unwanted debt of a kept man. But Violetta, true to her word, discourages her beloved, lying that she wants to remain faithful to Douphol. Determined and jealous, Alfredo disgraces Violetta in public by tossing her the money she has spent on him. His violent gesture makes an impression even on this blasé society.

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    Act IV

    Emptiness, loneliness. Nothing is left for the abandoned and feverish Violetta but to die. She hears the doctor’s sentence – just a few more hours of life left. The words from Germont’s letter, in which he begs her forgiveness and announces his and Alfredo’s arrival, keep going through her mind like a mantra. A curt ‘too late’ testifies to Violetta’s fever-sharpened awareness. The dream is over, but her final moments resemble a film about happy love, in which Violetta would want to live, Alfredo would do anything to make up for past wrongs, and Germont would do anything for forgiveness. But it is all too late. Violetta dies.

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