Germont, Giorgio

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(Verdi: La traviata). Bar. Father (père) of Alfredo. Referred to usually as Germont père. He visits Violetta to ask her to make the great sacrifice—to give up his son, whose career, his father believes, is jeopardized by her reputation. Also, he has a daughter who has a good marriage prospect, which is going to be ruined if it becomes known that her brother is living with a courtesan, albeit a high‐class and popular one—such have the social mores changed in the last 100 years or so. Even while asking her to make the sacrifice, Germont feels sorry for Violetta, admiring her dignity and believing that she loves Alfredo. But despite learning that she is ill and may not have long to live, he cruelly persists in pointing out to her that, as she ages and looks less glamorous, Alfredo will lose interest in her anyway—so why not do the right thing now and make things better for his family? Violetta gives in, but asks Germont to promise that one day, when she is dead, he will explain her actions to Alfredo. After she leaves for Paris, he does his best to help his son come to terms with the situation, suggesting he would be better coming to the family home, but Alfredo is inconsolable. At Flora's party, Germont observes his son insulting Violetta, admonishes him for his ungentlemanly behaviour, and disowns him. Months later, Germont's conscience troubles him. He writes to Alfredo telling him the whole story and he also writes to Violetta, explaining that this is what he has done. He arrives just in time to embrace her as a daughter before she dies. Aria: Pura siccome un angelo (‘God gave me a daughter, pure as an angel’); Di Provenza il mar, il suol (‘The sea and soil of Provence’).

At the beginning of the second act, Germont père may seem to be something of a prig, but we must remember that he is very much of his time—family honour is everything and he is prepared to ask any sacrifice to marry his daughter to a suitable husband. And he probably truly believes that Alfredo would be better off without the courtesan. Nevertheless, he is honest enough to admire Violetta's spirit and to feel sorry for her even while he asks her to make such a terrible sacrifice, and he accedes to her request that, one day, Alfredo will be told the truth. Indeed, six months later, he does tell his son the whole story. Charles Osborne in his The Complete Operas of Verdi (London, 1969) sums up the role beautifully when he tartly comments that Di Provenza in its ‘stodgy sentimentality is just right for Germont père’. Giorgio Germont is not a particularly interesting character, but his two arias in his big scene with Violetta have been enough to make the part attractive for baritones. These have included Mattia Battistini, Robert Merrill, Paolo Silveri, Carlo Tagliabue, Titta Ruffo, Ettore Bastianini, Heinrich Schlusnus, Leonard Warren, Tito Gobbi, Renato Capecchi, Sherrill Milnes, Dietrich Fischer‐Dieskau, Rolando Panerai, Sesto Bruscantini, Leo Nucci, Renato Bruson, Thomas Allen, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Created (1853) by Felice Varesi.


Subjects: Opera.

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