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La Traviata is one of the cornerstones of the operatic repertory. The score is littered with fantastic tunes that are now wildly famous (even those who aren’t at all operatically versed will know many of the arias from countless TV ads) but beyond that it is the coherence of the whole piece that makes it a masterpiece. The taut plot and vivid characters paired with Verdi’s perfectly attuned music tend to result in few dry eyes by the end of Act III.
It is currently the most popular of Verdi’s operas and also one of his most distinct. The scale is far more intimate than the vast majority of his output with effective no grand historic or political elements. The opera concerns itself with social issues contemporary to Verdi, almost autobiographical in places with regard to his own relationship with Giuseppina Strepponi.
It is also the only one of Verdi’s operas to specifically take place in his own time, “about 1850”. That was his wish, though for the premiere the censors forced him to shift the period, from the contemporary to some hundred years earlier, out of fear that the morality on stage might somehow slip out from the proscenium and into the aisles...
The real wonder of this work though is that regardless of the period, these characters speak to our universal nature. The plight of Violetta makes sense regardless of whether we see her as a 19th Century courtesan, a 21st Century prostitute or something else altogether!