La Traviata, 1853
But Sutherland owned it – and didn’t dodge the high note exit. Here is her recording in 1979 with Pavarotti  offstage .  Before her, it belonged to Callas. Intrigued? Read a superb amateur, spirited analysis  of the music themes through the whole of this amazing opera.

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Synopsis Libretto   Context

Not another Traviata!

It suffers today as the most known and clichéd Verdi opera, a “reliable classic” wheeled out to sell seats. Occasional attempts to produce it radically fail. Here’s the Met’s in 2012 with Natalie Dessay. (Though check out “Becoming Traviata” with Dessay  and ENO’s recent effort.) Our challenge is to see it anew for its psychological depth, moral courage, and musical detail. First, see it for what it is. Listen to this thoughtful introduction – and read the words they are singing.

The Story

She was a real woman, the Lady of the Camellias in Dumas’ novel, a “fallen woman” and societal success with wit, charm, and beauty who died of tuberculosis in 1847 at age 23. Verdi determined to set her in an opera, though at this time (mid nineteenth century) it  challenged the censors and had to be set in the past. It was also radical in its intimacy – nothing heroic about this opera.   And, like Rigoletto two years earlier, it brought characters alive in music that carried the drama seamlessly.  Violetta is not simply tragic. Confronting the moral stereotypes, Verdi gives her gentle, noble music, a thread of dignity” in all her music across the drama.  
Complex and strong as well as conflicted, she drives the opera in Verdi’s most challenging soprano role, in dramatic conflict with the male representatives of pure love and traditional honour.  It’s an opera of opposites.

The Music

Verdi unified the music and underscored the drama through the use of techniques such as repeated phrases (Violetta’s “Ah, fors’è lui” echoes Alfredo’s declaration of love and continues as a love theme), instrumentation (high violins underscore Violetta’s character from the overture onward), coloratura ornamentation that reflects Violetta’s agitation (thus justifying what otherwise can seem empty virtuosity), and musical continuity (through blurring the line between recitative and aria). (Britannica) Now focus on that most famous intertwining of voices in Act 1.  In a highly complex weaving of music, Violetta’s “Sempre Libera” (Always Free) is challenged by Alfredo’s declaration for a love that is mysterious and noble (misterioso, altero).  Among recent performances, here’s Renee Fleming’s tipsy and moody Violetta battling the ode to love from Joseph Calleja offstage. Here’s Angela Gheorghiu - same dress, very different Violetta.

Friday June 1st

Our presentations - Met Opera’s Zefferelli’s production with Teresa Stratas & Placido Domingo; and Opera Australia’s on the Harbour, with Emma Matthews and Gianluca Terranova.