LOVE IS THE HEARTBEAT OF THE UNIVERSE
Paris, 1850s. A young woman in the demimonde tries to follow her heart, but societal pressures force her to leave the man she loves, and an incurable illness takes care of the rest. Glittering parties contrast with quiet desperation, and passionate music underscores all-consuming emotions.
Based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Lady of the Camellias, Verdi’s opera scandalized Italy when it premiered in 1853, but swiftly became one of the most popular operas in the world. Come see why.
Friday, November 1 at 8pm
Sunday, November 3 at 2:30pm
Sung in Italian with projected English translations
Run time: 2 hours 45 minutes including 2 intermissions
Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
Premiered 6 March 1853, La Fenice, Venice, Italy
Previously at MO: 1975, 1985, 1999, 2011
A party is in progress at the Paris home of the courtesan Violetta Valéry, who has just recovered from a serious illness. Gastone de Letorières introduces her to Alfredo Germont, his friend from the country. Violetta’s current lover, Baron Douphol, is irritated by Alfredo, who visited Violetta’s home every day during her illness to express his concern. Gastone encourages Alfredo to lead a drinking song, in which Violetta joins.
The guests move to the next room for dancing, but Violetta, feeling faint, stays behind. She is startled to see Alfredo and gently rebuffs him when he declares his love. Finally she gives him a flower, telling him to return when it has faded. Overjoyed – since this means he will see her the next day – he leaves, followed moments later by the other guests.
Violetta wonders if Alfredo offers the true love she thought would never be hers. She laughs off the idea, declaring that she will live only for pleasure.
Five months later, Alfredo is blissfully happy living with Violetta in the country. When he learns from the maid, Annina, that Violetta has been selling her possessions to pay their expenses, he rushes off to Paris to raise funds. Violetta is perplexed by Alfredo’s sudden departure. She receives an invitation to a party to be given by her friend Flora Bervoix that evening in Paris and quickly dismisses it.
Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, arrives at the house, expressing his outrage at his son’s liaison with Violetta. Although he becomes convinced that Violetta does truly love Alfredo, he insists that she leave him for the sake of his family: the relationship would doom Alfredo’s sister’s chances for an advantageous marriage. Violetta eventually agrees to leave Alfredo, knowing that it will hasten her death. She asks Germont to promise her that after she dies, he will explain to his son the reason why she left him.
After Germont leaves, Violetta decides to attend Flora’s party and writes a farewell note to Alfredo. When Alfredo returns, she begs him to love her as much as she loves him and then runs from the room. The confused Alfredo is surprised when a messenger delivers the farewell note. Despair overwhelms him, but his father appears and asks him to return home. Noticing Flora’s invitation, Alfredo assumes that Violetta has returned to her old lover and vows to seek revenge.
At Flora’s party, everyone enjoys some Spanish entertainment. Alfredo startles the guests by arriving without Violetta. She appears, escorted by Baron Douphol, who battles Alfredo at the gaming table. Alfredo wins every game.
When supper is announced, all adjourn to the dining room, but Violetta soon reappears, having asked to see Alfredo privately. Fearing Douphol’s jealousy, she begs Alfredo to leave. He refuses, and she finally lies to him that she loves Douphol. Summoning the guests, Alfredo denounces Violetta and throws his winnings at her feet as payment for her services. She faints, causing all present to rebuke Alfredo for his behavior. Germont, who has followed his son to the party, reproaches him for insulting a woman. Violetta privately laments that Alfredo will never understand the sacrifice she made for love.
One month later, Violetta lies dying in her Paris home. Dr. Grenvil admits to Annina that Violetta has only a few hours to live. Violetta sends Annina to distribute her remaining money to the poor. Left alone, she rereads a letter from Germont: Alfredo, having wounded Baron Douphol in a duel, is traveling abroad. Germont has written to him of Violetta’s sacrifice, and Alfredo will soon return to ask her forgiveness. Violetta knows that it is too late.
Alfredo appears and convinces Violetta that she will regain her health once they start a new life together, far from Paris. Violetta tries to get dressed to go to church to offer a prayer of thanksgiving, but collapses. In anger and despair, she asks how God can let her die so young. She gives Alfredo a miniature of herself and asks that he give it to the woman he will one day marry. She suddenly declares that she has found new strength, but then falls lifeless.
Cecilia Violetta López
Madison Opera Debut: Opera in the Park 2017
Recently at MO: Micaëla, Carmen
Recently: Marguerite, Faust (Opera Omaha); Violetta, La Traviata (Opera Colorado); Adina, The Elixir of Love (Virginia Opera); Maria, West Side Story (Opera Idaho); Rosalba, Florencia en el Amazonas (Florida Grand Opera); Hanna Glawari, The Merry Widow (Opera Saratoga)
Upcoming: Violetta, La Traviata (Minnesota Opera); Nedda, Pagliacci (Opera Colorado); Liù, Turandot (Austin Opera)
Madison Opera Debut: Rodolfo, La Bohème (2015)
Recently at MO: Arcadio, Florencia en el Amazonas
Recently: Romeo, Romeo & Juliet (Pensacola Opera); Alfredo, La Traviata (Opera Maine, Annapolis Opera); Rodolfo, La Bohème (Opera San Antonio, Hawaii Opera Theatre); Fredric, The Pirates of Penzance (San Diego Opera, Intermountain Opera); Edgardo, Lucia di Lammermoor (Utah Opera)
Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Rigoletto, Rigoletto (New Orleans Opera); Germont, La Traviata (Seattle Opera, Portland Opera, Opera San Antonio); Sharpless, Madama Butterfly (Seattle Opera); Creon, Medea (Opera Omaha); Scarpia, Tosca (Nashville Opera)
Madison Opera Debut: Lola, Cavalleria Rusticana (2018)
Recently at MO: Mrs. Segstrom, A Little Night Music; 3rd Wood Sprite, Rusalka
Recently: Johanna, Sweeney Todd; Carrie, Carousel (Middleton Players Theatre); Prince Orlofsky, Die Fledermaus (Madison Savoyards); Fox, The Cunning Little Vixen; Baba the Turk, The Rake’s Progress; Cherubino, The Marriage of Figaro (Louisiana State University)
Upcoming: Venus, Orpheus in the Underworld (Madison Opera)
Madison Opera Debut: Mrs. Nordstrom, A Little Night Music (2019)
Recently at MO: 1st Wood Sprite, Rusalka
Recently: Gretel, Hansel and Gretel; Nightingale, Country Lass, The Enchanted Child (University of Northern Iowa)
Upcoming: Miss Lightfoot, Fellow Travelers; Minerva, Orpheus in the Underworld (Madison Opera)
Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Nerrone, L’Incoronazione di Poppea (UW-Madison); Ruggero, La Rondine; Tamino, The Magic Flute (Oklahoma City University)
Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Gianni Schicchi, Gianni Schicchi (MSU Opera Theatre); Dancaire, Carmen (Opera Grand Rapids, Opera Carolina); Speaker, The Magic Flute (Opera Grand Rapids, Toldeo Opera); Amonasro, Aida (Opera Theatre of the Rockies, Columbus Symphony Orchestra)
Madison Opera Debut: Villager, Pagliacci (2018)
Recently at MO: Mr. Lindquist, A Little Night Music
Recently: Notary, Gianni Schicchi (St. Petersburg Opera); Tonio, Pagliacci (Midwest Institute of Opera); Parson Peel, Patience and Sarah (Third Eye Theatre Ensemble); Argante, Rinaldo; John Proctor, The Crucible; (Chicago Summer Opera); Silvio, Pagliacci (Main Street Opera); Gamekeeper, The Cunning Little Vixen (Chicago College of Performing Arts)
Upcoming: Potter’s Assistant/Book Seller/Party Guest/Technician/French Priest, Fellow Travelers (Madison Opera)
Madison Opera Debut: Duke of Verona, Romeo & Juliet (2016)
Recently: Alfred Austrian, The Fix; George Benton, Dead Man Walking; Colline, La Bohème (Minnesota Opera); Dough’s Mate, Companionship (Fort Worth Opera); Don Alfonso, Così fan tutte (Opera in the Heights); Zuniga, Carmen (Mill City Summer Opera); Sarastro, The Magic Flute (Lakes Area Music Festival)
Upcoming: The Armchair / The Tree, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (Pacific Symphony)
Madison Opera Debut: The Magic Flute (1995)
Recently at MO: Rusalka, A Little Night Music, Florencia en el Amazonas, The Abduction from the Seraglio
Recently: Candide (Gran Teatre de Liceu); Porgy and Bess (Seattle Opera, Glimmerglass Festival); Sweeney Todd (Glimmerglass Festival); Lost in the Stars, Show Boat (Washington National Opera)
Upcoming: Opera in the Park, Fellow Travelers, Orpheus in the Underworld (Madison Opera); Blue (Glimmerglass Festival, Washington National Opera)
Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Charlie Parker’s Yardbird (Arizona Opera); Carmen (Annapolis Opera, North Carolina Opera, Dayton Opera); Tosca (Palm Beach Opera); Riders of the Purple Sage (Arizona Opera); Juliet Letters (Lyric Opera Kansas City)
Upcoming: Riders of the Purple Sage (Arizona Opera); Don Giovanni (Pensacola Opera); Hansel & Gretel (Palm Beach Opera)