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Verdi’s La Traviata was inspired by Alexandre Dumas’s La Dame aux Camélias, scandalous in its time for telling the story of a courtesan who dared to break the rules of bourgeois society by allowing herself to love and be loved and by aspiring to become respectable. It was the first work in the history of opera to be based on a drama of morals and manners and remains the great Italian composer’s most frequently performed and most extensively recorded masterpiece.
This documentary presents an anatomy of La Traviata, guiding viewers through the work, explaining Verdi’s intentions and how he expressed these in his music. The story of the opera is traced through substantial extracts drawn from acclaimed productions by Francesca Zambello, Terry Edwards, Peter Hall and Ruth Berghaus. Seen singing the central role of Violetta are Kathleen Cassello, Angela Gheorghiu, Marie McLaughlin and Carla Basto and there are also contributions from Roberto Alagna – Alfredo to Cassello’s Violetta – and Leo Nucci who appears opposite Gheorghiu as Germont.
For anyone new to opera, or to Verdi and La Traviata, this program provides a lively, lucid and informative introduction to the work. For those already familiar with the piece, it presents an opportunity to compare the different approaches and interpretations seen in the extracts and to hear from a singer’s point of view what Verdi demands of them in performance.