Valéry, Violetta

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(Verdi: La traviata). Sop. A courtesan, the ‘fallen woman’ of the opera's title. At a large party in her house, Alfredo Germont, who has admired her for some time, declares his love, not knowing that her days are numbered (tuberculosis being incurable then). Although she resists his efforts to coax her to give up her life as a courtesan, nevertheless we next see them in her country house, where they have lived together for three months. Annina, her maid, has returned from selling more of her mistress's possessions in order to pay the bills. When Alfredo learns this, he rushes off to Paris to raise funds. Violetta opens an invitation to a party at the home of her friend Flora, but has no interest in rejoining her old companions. She is visited by Alfredo's father. He clearly believes she is bleeding his son dry. Violetta shows him the bills she herself has paid. Germont tells her he has come to ask her to give up Alfredo, for two reasons: first, his career would stand a better chance if he wasn't with her, and second, Alfredo's sister is engaged to a most suitable husband, whose family will break off the engagement if news of Alfredo's relationship with Violetta becomes known. At first she resists, but gradually she is worn down and agrees to his request, asking him to promise that, when she is dead, Alfredo will be told the truth. She also asks him to stay nearby to console his son after she has left. Germont agrees, respecting her dignified bearing and even sympathizing with her position. Violetta accepts Flora's invitation. Just before she leaves, Alfredo returns, and she begs him passionately to say how much he loves her. He is devastated a few moments later to be handed a letter by a servant in which Violetta explains that she is returning to her former ‘protector’, Baron Douphol. Alfredo's father vainly attempts to console him. At Flora's, Violetta arrives with the Baron, and is shocked to see Alfredo, who is winning at the gaming tables. She begs him to go, insisting that she loves the Baron. Humiliated when he throws his winnings at her feet, and weak from her illness, she faints. Some months later, Violetta is dying, looked after by Annina and her old friend Dr Grenvil. She takes out a letter which she has read many times. It is from Giorgio Germont. He has told his son the truth, and Alfredo is on his way to Violetta. She wonders if he will arrive in time. He does, and takes Violetta in his arms, talking of their life in the future. It is too late. Violetta dies. Arias: È strano!…Ah, fors'è lui…(‘It's strange…Was this the man…?’); Sempre libera (‘Always free’); Dite alla giovine, si bella e pura (‘Tell your daughter, so beautiful and pure’); Di lagrime avea d'uopo…Amami, Alfredo (‘I felt like crying… Love me, Alfredo’); È tardi!…Addio, del passato (‘Too late!…Farewell, happy dreams’); duet (with Alfredo): Parigi, o cara (‘We'll leave Paris, my dearest’). Created (1853) by Fanny Salvini‐Donatelli (whose large build made the suspension of disbelief in her consumption and death scene extremely difficult and was one of the contributory factors to what Verdi described as ‘a fiasco’ of a première).


Subjects: Opera.

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