Broadcast

Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: La Traviata 

Broadcast of Saturday, March 30, 12:30 P.M.

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Violetta in her house in Paris (Poplavskaya as Violetta)
© Beatriz Schiller 2013
The 2012–13 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by 
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®, with generous long-term support from 
The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation,
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.

La Traviata

Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, 
based on the play La Dame aux Camélias, by Alexandre Dumas, Jr.
THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Violetta      soprano, DIANA DAMRAU
Flora      mezzo, PATRICIA RISLEY
Marquis d'Obigny      baritone, KYLE
    PFORTMILLER
Baron Douphol      bar., JASON STEARNS
Dr. Grenvil*      bass-bar., JAMES COURTNEY
A Gentleman*      bass, PAUL CORONA
Gastone      tenor, SCOTT SCULLY
Alfredo      tenor, SAIMIR PIRGU
Annina      mezzo, MARIA ZIFCHAK
Giuseppe      tenor, JUHWAN LEE
Germont      tenor, PLÁCIDO DOMINGO
Messenger      bass, JOSEPH TURI

* In Willy Decker's production of La
      Traviata
, the character of Doctor Grenvil
      doubles as a personification of death and
      is portrayed by two artists.

Conducted by YANNICK NÉZET-SÉGUIN

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: Willy Decker
Set and costume designer: Wolfgang Gussmann
Lighting designer: Hans Toelstede
Associate costume designer: Susana Mendoza
Choreographer: Athol Farmer
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Jane Klaviter,
      Dan Saunders, Miloš Repický,
      Steven White
Assistant stage directors: Gina Lapinski,
Jonathon Loy, Tomer Zvulun
Prompter: Jane Klaviter
Stage band conductor: Gregory Buchalter
Italian coach: Hemdi Kfir
Production a gift of
    Karen and Kevin Kennedy, and
    Mr. and Mrs. Paul M. Montrone

Revival a gift of Rolex

Original production of the Salzburger
    Festspiele; with thanks to De Nederlandse
    Opera, Amsterdam 

THE SCENES  Timings (ET)  
ACT IVioletta's house,
Paris 
12.30–1:07
ACT II 1:36–
    Sc. 1A country villa 
    Sc. 1Flora's house, Paris 
ACT IIIVioletta's bedroom–3:26

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
    William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
    Elena Park

For more information on the broadcasts,
    please visit www.operainfo.org.

Send quiz questions to:
    Metropolitan Opera Quiz
    Metropolitan Opera
    30 Lincoln Center
    New York, NY 10023
    or e-mail metquiz@metopera.org.

This performance is also being broadcast
    live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
    SiriusXM channel 74.

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Marina Poplavskaya as Violetta in Willy
Decker's staging of La Traviata at the Met

© Beatriz Schiller 2013

THE STORY 

ACT I. In her Paris salon, the courtesan Vio­letta Valéry welcomes her guests, among them Flora Bervoix, Marquis d'Obigny, Baron Douphol and Gastone, who introduces a new admirer, Alfredo Germont. The latter, confessing that he has adored Violetta from afar, offers a toast at her request; she joins him in the salute to pleasure. As her guests move into the ballroom, Violetta, suddenly feeling faint, remains behind. Alfredo returns, concerned about her, and ardently declares his love. At first, Violetta protests that love means nothing to her, but Alfredo's sincerity touches her, and she gives him a camellia, her symbol, promising that he may return to see her when the flower has withered. After her guests have gone, Violetta wonders if Alfredo could be the man to fulfill her dream of love. Dismissing this as folly, she asserts her need for freedom, as Alfredo's voice is heard outside, repeating his paean to love.

ACT II. Some months later, in a country villa near Paris, where he now lives with Violetta, Alfredo muses upon his contentment. When the maid, Annina, reveals that Violetta has been selling her belongings to pay their expenses, Alfredo is filled with shame. Resolving to settle their affairs at his own cost, he departs for the city. Violetta comes looking for him and finds an invitation from Flora to a party that night. She puts it aside, having given up her former life. Alfredo's father appears unexpectedly, demanding that Violetta renounce his son; the scandal of Alfredo's liaison threatens his sister's engagement. Violetta at first refuses, but when Germont suggests that the fleeting charms of youth are her sole appeal for Alfredo, she agrees to make the sacrifice. After Germont departs, Violetta sends a message accepting Flora's invitation, then begins a farewell note to Alfredo. He enters suddenly, surprising her; hiding the note, she tearfully reaffirms her love, then rushes away. Before long, a messenger brings her letter to Alfredo. Germont returns to console his despairing son with recollections of family life in Provence. But Alfredo, seeing Flora's invitation, concludes that Violetta has abandoned him for another lover and determines to confront her.

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Germont and Alfredo (Andrzej Dobber as Germont, Matthew Polenzani as Alfredo)
© Beth Bergman 2013

At her soirée, Flora learns from the Marquis that Violetta and Alfredo have parted ways. The floor is cleared for a band of fortune-telling Gypsies and dancers. Gastone and a group of men dressed as bullfighters offer a song about a matador and his coy sweetheart. Alfredo arrives, gambling recklessly and making bitter comments about love. Violetta, nervous and pale, enters on the arm of her old admirer, Baron Douphol, who proceeds to lose a small fortune to Alfredo. When the guests file into an adjoining room for supper, Violetta intercepts Alfredo, imploring him to leave before he further angers the baron. Misinterpreting her apprehension as concern for her new protector, he asks whether she loves Douphol. Bound by her promise to Germont, she replies that she does. Alfredo, mad with jealousy, calls the other guests to witness that he has repaid the money she squandered on him, then hurls his winnings at her feet. The guests rebuke him. Germont enters and berates his son, who is stricken with remorse, and Douphol challenges his rival to a duel.

ACT III. In Violetta's bedroom, Dr. Grenvil tells Annina her mistress hasn't long to live. Tuberculosis is consuming her. When she awakens, Violetta rereads a letter from Germont telling her the baron was only wounded in his duel with Alfredo, who knows of her sacrifice and is on his way to ask her pardon. Sensing that it is too late, Violetta bids farewell to her past. After Mardi Gras revelers pass by outside, Alfredo arrives. The lovers dream of a new life away from Paris, but Violetta falters and cries out against approaching death. Germont comes in with the doctor, as Violetta gives Alfredo a small portrait of herself, urging him to give it to the woman he will marry. Seized with a last resurgence of strength, she rises, crying out that she feels life returning, then falls dead.

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Time runs out for Violetta (Poplavskaya, Dobber, Polenzani)
© Beth Bergman 2013

THE BACKGROUND 

As he neared the age of forty, Verdi could look back on a series of successes, culminating in Rigoletto and Il Trovatore. With a commission from the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, the composer looked not to another heroic, patriotic subject or large-canvas melodrama but to a play on a contemporary theme, La Dame aux Camélias, by Alexandre Dumas fils, taken from the playwright's earlier novel. The character of Violetta was based on the real-life courtesan Rose Alphonsine Plessis, known as Marie Duplessis in the demimonde she inhabited.

The premiere, on March 6, 1853, was a fiasco, due in part to the work's realistic social theme. Verdi felt betrayed by the production, which was not set in the contemporary period he intended. The singers were no help: the soprano was overweight, the tenor in bad voice and the baritone dissatisfied with his role. 

In a different production, at another Venetian theater a year later, the work triumphed. It reached the U.S. at the New York Academy of Music on December 3, 1856. Marcella Sembrich was the Met's first Violetta, under the baton of Auguste Vianesi, in 1883, the company's opening season. Since then, virtually every Met soprano who can negotiate the coloratura of "Sempre libera" has attempted the role for the company. Particularly celebrated Met exponents of Violetta have included Rosa Ponselle, Lucrezia Bori, Licia Albanese (whose eighty-seven Met performances of Violetta constitute the company record), Renata Tebaldi, Dorothy Kirsten, Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, Anna Moffo, Renata Scotto, Beverly Sills, Ileana Cotrubas, Patricia Racette, Renée Fleming and Angela Gheorghiu. The Met's current production, staged by Willy Decker, was created for the Salzburg Festival in 2005. The Met premiere of the Decker staging, with Gianandrea Noseda conducting Marina Poplavskaya and Matthew Polenzani, was given on December 31, 2010.

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Alfredo and Violetta (Polenzani, Poplavskaya)
© Beatriz Schiller 2013

WHAT TO READ AND HEAR 

Mary Jane Phillips-Matz's life of the composer (Oxford) and Julian Budden's The Operas of Verdi (Oxford) are indispensable. The Dumas fils novel La Dame aux Camélias is available in paperback from Oxford.

Verdi's Violetta is well represented on disc, with many of the twentieth century's greatest sopranos offering compelling performances. The best set for sampling Callas's influential Violetta is the live 1955 recording under Giulini from La Scala (EMI). Anna Moffo's uncommonly persuasive Violetta is probably her best recorded performance, and her costars, Richard Tucker and Robert Merrill, are top-notch (RCA). For brilliant coloratura finish in Act I, try either of Joan Sutherland's Decca performances; the second, under Richard Bonynge, finds the soprano well partnered by Luciano Pavarotti's buoyant Alfredo. Beverly Sills's nobility of utterance (EMI), Victoria de los Angeles's heart-stopping pathos (EMI) and Renata Scotto's nervy, feverish dash (DG) are all worthy of attention. The new star team of Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón catches fire on DG's 2005 Salzburg recording.

On DVD, Carlo Rizzi leads a 2005 Salzburg performance of the Met's current production by Willy Decker, with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón teamed — to electric effect — as Violetta and Alfredo. Villazón repeats his impetuous Alfredo in a 2006 performance from Los Angeles Opera of a lavishly traditional Marta Domingo staging, with James Conlon offering slightly indulgent leadership to Renée Fleming's graceful, sad-eyed Violetta (Decca). Fleming is in trimmer form musically in a 2009 revival of Richard Eyre's Covent Garden production, with Joseph Calleja and Thomas Hampson (Opus Arte), conducted by Antonio Pappano. An earlier Covent Garden performance of the Eyre staging (Decca) captures the Violetta that made Angela Gheorghiu an international star in 1994; Georg Solti conducts. Robert Carsen's 2004 staging from La Fenice (Arthaus) offers Dmitri Hvorostovsky's aristocratic Germont, conducted by Lorin Maazel. Peter Hall's more modestly cast 1988 production from Glyndebourne (Kultur), led by Bernard Haitink, is also satisfying on its own intimate terms. The 1936 George Cukor film Camille, an MGM adaptation of Dumas Fils's play, can still jerk the requisite tears with great efficiency, thanks to the incomparable Greta Garbo (Warner). spacer 

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