A toast to the pleasures of life!’ – so sing Violetta, her new admirer Alfredo and her party guests in the opening scene of Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. But beneath the surface glamour of Violetta’s Parisian life run darker undercurrents: her doomed love for Alfredo and the tensions the lovers encounter when they break society’s conventions. La traviata, based on Alexander Dumas fils’s play La Dame aux camélias, is one of Verdi’s most popular operas, combining drama, profound emotion and wonderful melodies.
Richard Eyre’s classic production conveys the indulgent social whirl of 19th-century Paris. It provides a vivid setting for Verdi’s tuneful score, which includes such favourites as Violetta’s introspective ‘Ah fors’è lui’ and ecstatic ‘Sempre libera’; the duet ‘Pura siccome un angelo’ as Giorgio Germont begs Violetta to leave Alfredo; and ‘Parigi, o cara’, in which the lovers poignantly imagine a life that will never be theirs. The role of Violetta (the ‘fallen woman’ of the title) is one of Verdi’s most complex and enduring characters.