Verdi – Prelude to Act III of La Traviata

by Max Derrickson

Giuseppe (Fortunino Francesco) Verdi     (b Roncole, near Busseto, Italy, October 10, 1813; d Milan, January 27, 1901)

Prelude to Act III of La Traviata 

The story of La Traviata (The Fallen Woman, or The Prostitute) is based on the true 1840’s story of Alexander Dumas’s (son of the author of The Three Musketeers) affair with a high-society Parisian courtesan.  In today’s parlance she would have perhaps been called an “escort.”  Dumas wrote a novel about it, La Dame aux Caméllias, and then a play.  Verdi attended the play’s wildly successful premiere in Paris in 1852, and then premiered his own operatic version of the story, La Traviata, with librettist Piave in 1853.

With its emphasis on the psychology between lovers and the currency of it characters, La Traviata is often considered a prototype for opera verismo (realistic opera), a movement which became the hallmark of later composers such as Mascagni, Puccini and Richard Strauss.  Though its premiere was less than a wild success, it has become one of Verdi’s most beloved and frequently performed operas.

The exquisite and poignant Prelude to Act III tells musically what no story can – of death and grief, of love lost, of beauty quenched.  As the final Act concludes, its heroine, the courtesan Violetta, dies of tuberculosis just moments after she reunites with her lover.  Utter grief attends the scene.
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