On Stage: 'La Traviata'

Mar 12, 2018

Giuseppe Verdi created the opera La Traviata, or The Fallen Woman, set to the work of Italian librettist Francesco Piave. Originally titled Violetta, after the main character, the opera is based on the play “The Lady of the Camellias,” which was, in turn, adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas fils. The story concerns a dying courtesan who falls in love with a young man, and is persuaded to sacrifice her brief happiness to protect the young man's future. It made its onstage debut at La Fenice opera house in Venice on March 6th, 1853.

The opera was not well received. While the first act ended with cheers and applause, by the end of the second act, the audience had undergone a sea change, reacting with scorn to the performances of the lead soprano, the baritone, and the tenor. Verdi famously wrote in a letter to a friend, “La traviata last night a failure. Was the fault mine or the singers? Time will tell.” Verdi revised the opera, and turned down a number of requests for productions when he felt the vocalists were not strong enough.

Today, of course, we've seen the opera not only stand the test of time, but become the most well loved staple of opera companies throughout the modern world. Operabase, which tracks such information, has La Traviata listed as the most-performed opera across the globe in 2015.

The Wichita Grand Opera is putting La Traviata onstage at Century II Concert Hall on April 7.