Set against the backdrop of a disapproving "polite" society, "La Traviata" tells the tragic story of Alfredo Germont, a true romantic, and Violetta, a renowned Parisian courtesan. From its stirring orchestrations to its heartrending intimacy, the passion and sacrifice of Verdi's iconic tale is a masterpiece.
Great repertoire, lavish scenery, amazing voices and outstanding value—these are the hallmarks of the CU Boulder College of Music Eklund Opera Program. Director Leigh Holman and Music Director Nicholas Carthy bring you the best of classical and contemporary opera in these fascinating productions.
Performance dates and times
Friday, Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 24, 2 p.m.
Save 15% with season tickets, available in the Choice Option. Single ticket discounts available for groups (10+), seniors (65+), youth (K-12) and CU Boulder faculty, staff and students. Learn moreRead more
An estate auction takes place. Parisiens purchase the remaining possessions of Madame Valéry. A mysterious stranger bids to acquire a meaningful item: an antique hourglass.
Violetta Valéry is consumed by tuberculosis. She knows that she will die soon, and her hourglass reminds her of the limited time. While hosting a party celebrating a temporary restoration of her health, she is introduced to Alfredo Germont. Viscount Gastone divulges that Alfredo, long in awe of her beauty and refinement, has come daily to check on her wellbeing. Later, Alfredo is coaxed into giving a toast and performing for the guests. In the drinking song, he celebrates true love. Violetta responds in praise of free love, but she is touched by his candor. Suddenly she feels faint, and the guests withdraw. Alfredo remains behind and declares his love for her. There is no place for true love in her life, Violetta replies. Still, she gives him a camellia, asking him to return when the flower has faded.
Violetta has chosen to join Alfredo in the country, renouncing her life as a courtesan. But when Alfredo learns that their new life is only possible because Violetta sold her property, he immediately leaves for Paris to buy back her house and possessions. Meanwhile Violetta has received an invitation to Flora’s party in Paris, but she no longer cares for such distractions. Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont, pays Violetta a visit. He requests that she separate from his son. Their unconventional arrangement and her former occupation threaten the marriage of his daughter. Violetta resists, but her hourglass again reminds her that she will have no long lasting life with Alfredo. She agrees and decides to leave for the party in Paris. She writes a goodbye letter to Alfredo. Alfredo returns and is consoled by his father.
At the party, news has spread of Violetta and Alfredo’s separation, and Violetta arrives with her new lover, Baron Douphol. Alfredo and the Baron battle at the gaming table, where Alfredo wins a large sum. Alfredo then confronts Violetta, calling the guests as witnesses. He throws his fistful of winnings at the former courtesan, humiliating her. His father sees this display and rebukes his son. Alfredo is remorseful, Violetta is broken-hearted, and the guests look on in despair. In response, the Baron challenges his rival to a duel.
Violetta is dying; her doctor knows that she has little time left. Giorgio Germont has written to Violetta, informing her that his son was not injured in the duel. What’s more, full of remorse, Giorgio told Alfredo about Violetta’s sacrifice. Alfredo wants to rejoin her as soon as possible. Violetta is afraid that he might be too late. Alfredo arrives, and the reunion fills Violetta with a final euphoria. Her energy and exuberant joy of life return. All sorrow and suffering seem to have left her—a final illusion before she dies.
Stage director’s notes
According to Opera America, Verdi’s La
Traviata is one of the 10 most produced operas in the United States. There is no doubt why. The story, based on Alexandre Dumas fils’ La Dame aux Camélias, is a captivating story of desire, love, family and impending death. Verdi’s music is of the highest caliber. In the passages of Violetta’s music, he masterfully expresses her passion as well as her fragility. His party scenes depict both glorious celebrations and her fatal and breathless illness: tuberculosis.
His musical expression is notated in the orchestra and vocal line conveyed by contrasting dynamics. The most quiet of dynamics, pianissimo (pp), is rarely possible for a novice singer. To accomplish this, a refined technique is required, and our students do not fall short. Their vocal mastery complements and enhances the dramatic story throughout.
One of my chosen dramatic devices used in this production is a visual metaphor of the dwindling time that Violetta has to live: her hourglass. Only she and Dr. Grenvil seem to understand its symbolism. As any dramatist knows, the convention of limited time adds high stakes to the drama.
Our production is not set in 1870 as is often done. It is set later in Paris during the Belle Époque era, circa 1910. During this time, many creatives gathered together to enjoy intoxicating substances and passionate trysts while discussing the art and philosophies of the day. Color was everywhere: in art, in fashion and in the extroverted personalities who stayed late at every party.
Violetta begins the opera surrounded by friends, idols and even groupies. By the end of the opera she is surrounded by only her doctor, her companion Alfredo, and his father. The people that seemed to adore her in act one turned their back on her once her star faded out. La
Traviata is a reminder that we always die alone. Even surrounded by the ones who truly love us, we travel through that final door by ourselves. This is nothing of which we have control. But we do have the ability to make alternate choices, to live nobly and to sacrifice our own desires for those of the ones we love.
Music director’s notes
Of all the great opera composers, and there are many, nobody came close to Verdi or Mozart. Together they stand alone in the pantheon of illustrious opera composers, those whose synthesis of drama, text and music can only be described as masterful.
In La Traviata, Giuseppe Verdi’s genius is immediately apparent. Right from the opening violin notes of the prelude we are transported into a different emotional world. Traditionally Italian opera preludes were somewhat of an afterthought, comprising a potpourri of themes from the opera (and sometimes not even written by the composer himself). Verdi concentrates on just two themes here, presenting us with an exposition of tragedy and passion in equal measure. He is simply telling us what is going to happen, and letting the story unfold as it must. In this he was like all great dramatists; less interested in the story per se, as in the decisions, circumstances and weaknesses that form our lives—and therefore our fate.
There are countless examples of Verdi’s dramatic realism on display in La
Traviata. The prosaic background music to Alfredo’s declaration of his love for Violetta, and Violetta herself in her aria, “Sempre libera,” where we find her questioning whether to give up her profession as a courtesan to love one man.
Then there is the fact that we rarely see Violetta and Alfredo content and happy together. If we are to concentrate on the tragedy of existence, then would it not be a good idea to have a lot of happiness to contrast it with? For Verdi, of course, it is not the contrast that is important but the juxtaposition, and the closer the juxtaposition, the more the tragedy is set in relief. To be reunited in hope, however illusory, only for death to intrude in the next moment, is the greatest of all tragedies. It is a story often told.
That brings us to the crux of the final scene of La Traviata.
Many commentators have remarked that the fact that Violetta appears to recover just before expiring is too incredible and overly melodramatic. But this is exactly what happens in tuberculosis. The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1885) describes the so-called spes phthisica as follows: “A remarkable and often painful feature of the disease is the absence in many patients of all sense of the nature and gravity of the malady from which they suffer, and their singular buoyancy of spirits rendering them hopeful of recovery up till even the very end.”
Please note: This production features the use of prop weaponry.
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Shannon Paige Christie
Miguel A. Ortega
Giuseppe/Domestico di Flora
Catherine Gillies Jaicks
Eric (Lingyi) Wang
Marchese and Second Assistant Director
Set and Lighting Designer
Peter Dean Beck
Properties Designer and Scenic Artist
Jennifer Melcher Galvin
Wig and Makeup Designer
Sarah Annette Opstad Demmon
Dawna Rae Warren
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