Explore Verdi’s La Traviata, currently the most performed opera in the world, with Classics Unlocked, a podcast presented by Graham Abbott. Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi wrote a trilogy of operas (Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata) in the early 1850s that are among the most regularly performed stage works in the world. In this episode Classics Unlocked explores the most famous of them all – La Traviata.
La Traviata is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. The opera is based upon The Lady Of The Camellias, a play adapted from the landmark novel by Alexandra Dumas fils, which was described as “One of the greatest love stories of all time” by Henry James. La Traviata means “the fallen woman” and refers to the main character, Violetta Valéry, a courtesan.
The opera tells the tragic love story between courtesan Violetta Valéry and romantic Alfredo Germont. Their love threatens to shame his family and when Alfredo’s father directly appeals to Violetta to relinquish her one chance of happiness, she submits and her act of self-sacrifice leads to her paying the ultimate price.
During the premiere of La Traviata on 6 May 1853 at La Fenice opera house the audience booed and jeered throughout most of the performance. The next day, Verdi wrote to his friend Emanuele Muzio, in perhaps his most famous letter, “La Traviata last night a failure. Was the fault mine or the singers’? Time will tell.” Verdi made a few revisions to the score, between 1853 and 1854, and the revised version was a great success.
La Traviata is one of Verdi’s most popular works and currently the most performed opera in the world. The opera features one of the most romantic and tragic scores of all time and highlights include the duet ‘Brindisi’ (aka ‘The Drinking Song’) and ‘Sempre Libera’ (‘Always Free’).
Classics Unlocked podcasts
The following Classics Unlocked podcasts are available on YouTube and as Apple Music podcasts. Each 45-minute podcast focuses on a particular period of music or body of work and delves into the stories behind the music.
• Bach’s Six Cello Suites – Pierre Fournier
• Mahler’s Symphonies – Bernard Haitink
• Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies – Mikhail Pletnev
• Wagner’s Ring Cycle – Sir Georg Solti
• Berlioz The Rule Breaker – Various Artists
• Beethoven’s Early Piano Sonatas – Wilhelm Kempff
• Bruckner’s Symphonies – Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/various conductors
• Mozart’s Wind Concertos – Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
• Carols Old And New – Choir of King’s College Cambridge conducted by Stephen Cleobury
• Beethoven’s Symphonies – Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan
• Verdi’s La Traviata – Bavarian State Orchestra conducted by Carlos Kleiber
The recording of Verdi’s La Traviata featured in this episode, performed by Ileana Cotrubas, Placido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes, and the Bavarian State Orchestra conducted by Carlos Kleiber, can be bought here.