La Traviata

Classical Academy | Composers | Performers | On This Day...

La Traviata is one of Verdi's most popular operas. It tells the story of the courtesan Violetta (a high-class prostitue) as she falls in love with a young man (Alfredo) from a well-to-do family, and subsequently dies of consumption.


The opera is quietly revolutionary for its time, in making the heroine a 'fallen woman' (the title La Traviata means 'the fallen one') and having the audience sympathise with her plight. When it was first performed at La Fenice in Venice in March 1853, the authorities thought the story morally questionable, and insisted that it be set in a previous era and not modern-day as the composer and librettist had intended.


The opera has all the hallmarks of a true Verdi opera, with broad sweeping melodies for the singers and a lush orchestration to accompany it. It's tragic love story is the perfect setting for Verdi's intensely emotional arias and duets, which have led it to be one of the most frequently staged of his operas.


This fantastic recording of La Traviata features famous tenor Pavarotti, singing some of the opera's greatest arias and ensembles. "Un Dì, Felice, Eterea" is one of opera's best duets - in it the two lovers, Violetta and Alfredo, sing of the bittersweet emotions of love ("croce e delizia" - torture and delight).