La Traviata: Verdi, Opera Queensland

La Traviata: Verdi, Opera Queensland

WHEN: Thursday, 28 May 2009

TIME: 6.30 pm

WHERE: Opera QueenslandQueensland Conservatorium Building 140 Grey StreetSouth Brisbane QLD 4101


La Traviata: Verdi, Opera Queensland La traviata retains a special place in the hearts of opera lovers. The tragic plight of Violetta Valéry, the beautiful Parisian courtesan who sacrificed her love for Alfredo when morally blackmailed by his father, drew from Verdi some of his most poignant and memorable melodies. 6.30pm


La traviata is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It is based on La dame aux Camélias (1852), a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils. The title La traviata translates as The Strayed Woman. It was originally entitled Violetta, after the main character.
Piave and Verdi wanted to follow Dumas in giving the opera a contemporary setting, but the authorities at La Fenice insisted that it be set in the past, "c. 1700". It was not until the 1880s that the composer and librettist's original wishes were carried out and "realistic" productions were staged.
The first performance of the opera was on 6 March 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in Venice. It was jeered at times by the audience, who directed some of their scorn at the casting of soprano Fanny Salvini-Donatelli in the lead role of Violetta. Though she was an acclaimed singer, they considered her to be too old (at 38) and too overweight to credibly play a young woman dying of consumption. (Verdi had previously attempted to persuade the manager of La Fenice to re-cast the role with a younger woman, but with no success.) Nevertheless, the first act was met with applause and cheering at the end; but in the second act, the audience began to turn against the performance, especially after the singing of the baritone (Felice Varesi) and the tenor (Lodovico Graziani). The day after, Verdi wrote to his friend Muzio in what has now become perhaps his most famous letter: "La traviata last night a failure. Was the fault mine or the singers'? Time will tell."
After some revisions between 1853 and May 1854, mostly affecting acts 2 and 3, the opera was presented again in Venice, this time at the Teatro San Benedetto. This performance was a critical success, largely due to Maria Spezia-Aldighieri's portrayal of Violetta.
The opera (in the revised version) was first performed in Vienna on 4 May 1855 in Italian. It was first performed in England on 24 May 1856 in Italian at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, where it was considered morally questionable, and "the heads of the Church did their best to put an injunction upon performance; the Queen refrained from visiting the theatre during the performances, though the music, words and all, were not unheard at the palace". It was first performed in the United States on 3 December 1856 in Italian at the Academy of Music in New York. 
George Templeton Strong noted in his diary: "People say the plot's immoral, but I don't see that it's so much worse than many others, not to speak of Don Giovanni, which as put on the stage is little but rampant lechery",[5] while the Evening Post critic wrote: "Those who have quietly sat through the glaring improprieties of Don Giovanni will hardly blush or frown at anything in La traviata."
The opera was first performed in France on 6 December 1856 in Italian by the Théâtre-Italien at the Salle Ventadour in Paris,[3] and on 27 October 1864 in French as Violetta (an adaptation by Édouard Duprez, older brother of the tenor Gilbert Duprez) at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Place du Châtelet with Christine Nilsson in the title role. The French adaptation of the libretto was published in 1865.
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