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La traviata

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Violetta's costume for the premiere of La traviata, by Giuseppe Bertoja, 1853

La traviata (English: The Wayward One) is a tragic Italian opera with music by Giuseppe Verdi and words by Francesco Maria Piave. The opera was based on La dame aux Camélias (1852), a play adapted from a novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils.

The opera was first performed on 6 March 1853 at La Fenice in Venice, Italy. Piave and Verdi wanted to follow Dumas in giving the opera a contemporary setting. Authorities at La Fenice however insisted that it be set in 1700. It was not until the 1880s that "realistic" productions were staged.

Interior of La Fenice, 1837

Critics and the audience decided the first performance a failure. It was thought the soprano playing Violetta was too old and overweight. The tenor and baritone were also criticized.

It was not until 1854 that the opera was restaged with a brilliant soprano in the title role. The production was a great success.

Today, the opera is hugely popular around the world, and is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire. In the 2012-2013 season, it was in first place on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide.

Great modern Violettas include Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland. The opera was made into a movie in 1967 starring Anna Moffo as Violetta. In 1983, another movie was released starring Teresa Stratas as Violetta, Plácido Domingo as Alfredo, and Cornell MacNeil as Giorgio Germont.


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