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Verdi's La Traviata

Duration:
2 hours, 40 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 31 December 2011

Verdi's La Traviata
Presented by Martin Handley

From the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Verdi's enduring favourite, La Traviata, recorded earlier this month. Adapted from Dumas' novel La Dame aux Camélias, it's the story of the Fallen Woman, the tragic courtesan who pays the ultimate price for taking a lover only to be forced to leave him against her wishes, as they break Parisian society's conventions. Soprano Ailyn Pérez portrays Violetta, la Traviata, in a Covent Garden debut role; Alfredo, her young, carefree lover is performed by tenor Piotr Beczala; his father, Giorgio Germont, whose family's honour is compromised by the doomed lovers, is portrayed by Simon Keenlyside - his first time in the Covent Garden stage performing a role he took recently to Japan with the ROH. This classic production of La Traviata, by Richard Eyre, provides a fascinating portrait into a pleasure-seeking, double-standards, decadent society. At the helm of the Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus is Patrick Lange.

Violetta Valéry.....Ailyn Pérez (Soprano)
Alfredo Germont.....Piotr Beczala (Tenor)
Giorgio Germont.....Simon Keenlyside (Baritone)
Baron Douphol.....Eddie Wade (Baritone)
Doctor Grenvil.....Christophoros Stamboglis (Bass)
Flora Bervoix.....Hanna Hipp (Mezzo soprano)
Marquis D'Obigny.....Daniel Grice (Bass baritone)
Gastone de Letorières.....Ji Hyun Kim (Tenor)
Annina.....Gaynor Keeble (Mezzo soprano)
Giuseppe.....Neil Gillespie (Tenor)
Messenger.....John Bernays (Bass)

Conductor.....Patrick Lange
The Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House.

  • Ailyn Pérez As Violetta

    Ailyn Pérez As Violetta

    © Roh 2011 / Catherine Ashmore

  • Piotr Beczala as Alfredo

    Piotr Beczala as Alfredo

    © Roh 2011 / Catherine Ashmore

  • Simon Keenlyside as Giorgio Germont

    Simon Keenlyside as Giorgio Germont

    © Roh 2011 / Catherine Ashmore

  • Ailyn Pérez As Violetta and Piotr Beczala as Alfredo

    Ailyn Pérez As Violetta and Piotr Beczala as Alfredo

    © Roh 2011 / Catherine Ashmore

  • Ailyn Pérez As Violetta and Ji Hyun Kim As Gastone

    Ailyn Pérez As Violetta and Ji Hyun Kim As Gastone

    © Roh 2011 / Catherine Ashmore

  • Piotr Beczala as Alfredo

    Piotr Beczala as Alfredo

    © Roh 2011 / Catherine Ashmore

  • Ailyn Pérez As Violetta

    Ailyn Pérez As Violetta

    © Roh 2011 / Catherine Ashmore

  • Act I

    A salon in Violetta’s house; August
    Violetta greets her party guests, among whom is Flora, with her escort, the Marquis d’Obigny. Gastone introduces Alfredo Germont to Violetta and tells her that Alfredo thinks of her constantly and called on her anxiously each day during her recent illness.

    Gastone, seconded by Violetta, calls for a toast. Alfredo responds with a song in praise of wine and pleasure (Libiamo ne’ lieti calici) and everyone joins in. Music is heard from another room and Violetta invites her guests to dance. Suddenly she feels unsteady and tells the others to go on without her. Alfredo stays behind; he warns her that her present way of life will kill her. He offers to look after her, admitting that he has loved her since he first saw her over a year ago (Un dì felice, eterea). Violetta replies lightheartedly that she does not know how to love: he should forget her. She gives him a camellia, telling him to return it to her when it has faded; hoping that will be the next day, he leaves, saying that he loves her. As dawn approaches, the other guests depart. Alone, Violetta reflects on Alfredo’s unexpected declaration of love (È strano! è strano!) and on her feelings for him (Ah fors’è lui), then abandons such serious thoughts, recalling that she is destined for a life of pleasure (Sempre libera degg’io). Alfredo’s voice is heard from outside.

  • Act II - Scene 1

    A country house near Paris; the following January

    Alfredo reflects on the three idyllic months he has now spent with Violetta (Dei miei bollenti spiriti). Annina arrives and tells Alfredo that she was sent to Paris by Violetta, who has been selling her belongings to pay for their life together. Alfredo resolves to raise the money himself, expressing remorse that he did not realize the true situation (Oh mio rimorso!). He leaves.

    Violetta enters, learns that Alfredo has gone, and says that she is expecting a businessman to visit shortly. She opens an invitation to a party at Flora’s that evening. Germont arrives, announces himself as Alfredo’s father and accuses Violetta of ruining his son. He is shocked to discover that it is in fact she who is supporting the couple. He then tells her of the plight of his beloved daughter (Pura siccome un angelo), whose forthcoming marriage is jeopardized by Alfredo’s scandalous liaison with Violetta, and begs Violetta to leave Alfredo so that he can return to his family. Violetta confesses to Germont her overwhelming love, revealing the seriousness of her illness and her dependence on Alfredo (Non sapete quale affetto). Germont is unmoved and says she is bound to find other men to love. Grief-stricken, Violetta finally agrees to make the sacrifice (Dite alla giovine), asking Germont to embrace her as his daughter and to comfort Alfredo when she has gone. After she dies, she wants Germont to tell Alfredo the real reason for her leaving him. Germont goes.

    Violetta scribbles a note and gives it to Annina to deliver, then begins another to Alfredo. She is interrupted by his return. He is disturbed at her agitated state and concerned that his father should have visited. Violetta, now in despair at her promise, wants reassurance of Alfredo’s love for her (Amami, Alfredo) before she runs away. A passer-by brings Alfredo Violetta’s letter saying she is abandoning him. Germont appears and tries to comfort his son, reminding him nostalgically of his home in Provence (Di Provenza il mar, il suol). But Alfredo is inconsolable (No, non udrai rimproveri). Seeing Flora’s invitation, he assumes Violetta has gone to the party and swears to avenge himself.

  • Act II - Scene 2

    A salon in Flora’s house

    Flora’s guests chat and gamble at her party. She and her new lover discuss the separation of Alfredo and Violetta. A group of guests dressed as gypsies sing and some real gypsies dance, followed by Gastone and friends disguised as matadors.

    Alfredo arrives and joins a game of cards, playing recklessly and commenting that his luck at the table is better than his fortune in love. He feigns disinterest at seeing Violetta with Baron Douphol but provokes the Baron into challenging him at cards. While Violetta privately expresses her anguish, the two men gamble. The Baron loses, swearing revenge, and everyone goes off to supper. Violetta returns, having sent Alfredo a message asking him to join her. When he appears, she begs him to escape from the Baron’s wrath and he agrees to leave if she will swear to follow him. emembering her oath to Germont, she tells Alfredo that she cannot go with him and that she now loves the Baron. In fury, Alfredo summons the guests and, flinging his winnings at Violetta, asks everyone to witness that he has paid her back for their time together. Violetta faints. The guests rebuke Alfredo, and Germont, who has arrived unobserved, renounces his son. Everyone expresses their reactions to the situation: Germont is reproachful; Alfredo is distressed and remorseful; Violetta, despairingly and privately, begs Alfredo to understand her distress, vowing her undying love for him; the Baron swears to avenge the insult to Violetta.

  • Act III

    Violetta’s bedroom; February
    Violetta is desperately ill and is being nursed by Annina. Doctor Grenvil visits and offers her encouragement but quietly tells Annina that Violetta has only a few hours to live. Violetta urges Annina to join the Carnival festivities outside and to take half of Violetta’s money to give to the poor.

    Alone, Violetta reads a letter from Germont explaining that Alfredo, who fled the country after wounding the Baron in a duel, now knows of her sacrifice and is coming to beg her to pardon him (Teneste la promessa). Violetta knows that all hope for her has faded and says farewell to past dreams, praying for God’s forgiveness (Addio, del passato). The Carnival can be heard. Annina hurries in to tell Violetta of Alfredo’s approach. He falls into her arms, imploring her to forgive him and his father. They plan a new life, away from Paris (Parigi, o cara), and Violetta wants them to go to church to thank God for Alfredo’s return. But she is now too weak to get up. In despair that she will die so young (Gran Dio! morir sì giovane) Violetta briefly rallies. Germont appears, with Annina and the doctor, and embraces her. Violetta gives Alfredo a locket containing her portrait, telling him that if he marries he must give it to his bride (Prendi: quest’è l’immagine). Violetta feels a sudden rush of life as her pain eases. But she collapses, dead.

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