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La Traviata

Opera Background

ComposerGiuseppe Verdi
LibrettistFrancesco Maria Piave
Language Italian
Date of PremierMarch 6 , 1953
Number of ActsThree
Music Length Two Hours

In the body of Verdi’s musical works, La Traviata is one of, if not the most acclaimed. La Traviata is also known for being the world’s most frequently performed opera, and it’s most famous tune “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” is a tune just about everybody is familiar with.

La Traviata (“The Woman Who Strayed” or more figuratively “The Fallen Woman”) takes place in Paris and the Parisian countryside, where the main characters Violetta and Alfredo dive into a passionate, yet complicated relationship. This opera is full of parties, love, sacrifice, revenge, and tragedy. The plot is so heart wrenching that many modern-day films have based their stories on it.

Quick Answers

What is the Story of La Traviata?

What is the Most Famous Song From La Traviata?

La Traviata is packed with recognizable musical numbers that have become staples especially in Italian culture. That being said, arguably the most famous number is “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” from Act 1

What Movie is Based on La Traviata?

The 1990 film Pretty Woman Is loosely based on Verdi’s La Traviata, and the two share very similar themes. There is even a scene in Pretty Woman where the main character goes to the Opera for the first time and sees La Traviata.

What City is La Traviata Set In?

La Traviata is based in Paris, France.

What language is La Traviata?

La Traviata is sung entirely in Italian.


  • Violetta Valéry, a beautiful Parisian (soprano)
  • Alfredo Germont, a young man (tenor)
  • Flora, Violetta’s friend (mezzo-soprano)
  • Gastone, Violetta’s friend (tenor)
  • Alfredo Germont, a young man (tenor)
  • Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father (baritone—a middle-range male voice)
  • Duphol, a wealthy baron (bass)

Musical Numbers

Overture (instrumental)

Musical Numbers – Act 1

  • Dell’invito trascorsa è già l’ora“: The group drinks and celebrates Violetta’s recovery from her illness
  • “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici”: Alfredo sings a “Brindisi” (a lively song that encourages drinking)
  • “Che è ciò?”: Alfredo declares his love for Violetta
  • Ebben? che diavol fate?“: Violetta instructs Alfredo to return the following day
  • Si ridesta in ciel l’aurora“: The party leaves as dawn breaks
  • “È strano! è strano!”: Violetta sings of the joy of feeling loved
  • Follie! follie delirio vano è questo!“: Violetta decides to remain free and aimless, enjoying herself in other ways than love

Musical Numbers – Act 2

  • “Lunge da lei”: Alfredo tells how Violetta gave up everything for him
  • “De Miei bollenti spiriti”: Alfredo sings of him and Violetta’s passionate love for eachother
  • “Annina donde vieni”: Alfredo leans from Annina that they are out of money
  • “O mio rimorso!”: Alfredo is remorseful of their situation, and goes to Paris to resolve the issue
  • “Alfredo? per parigi or partiva”: Violetta learns that Alfredo has gone to Paris
  • “Mademoiselle Valéry?”: Giorgio Germant (Alfredo’s father) arrives to see Violetta
  • “Pura siccome un angelo”: Giorgio orders Violetta to leave Alfredo
  • “Non sapete quale affetto”: Violetta tells how detrimental it would be to leave Alfredo
  • “E grave il sacrifizio”: Giorgio pleads with Violetta to save his family
  • “Dite alla giovine”: Violetta agrees to scrifice herself for Giorgio’s daughter
  • “Imponete”: Violetta questions the best way to seperate from Alfredo
  • “Morrò!”: Violetta begs for the truth of the matter to be known after she dies
  • “Dammi tu forza, o cielo!”: Violetta writes her letter to Alfredo
  • “Che fai?..nulla”: Alfredo consoles the weeping Violetta
  • “Ah, vive sol quel core all’amor mio!”: Alfredo reads the letter from Violetta as his father enters
  • “Di Provenza il mar, il suol chi dal cor ti cancellò?”: Giorgio consoles the saddened Alfredo
  • “Né rispondi d’un padre all’affetto?”: Alfredo ignores his father and decides to confront Violette in Paris
  • “Avrem lieta di maschere la notte”: Flora prepares for her party
  • “Noi siamo zingarelle”: The entertainers sing their song at Flora’s party
  • Alfredo! Voi!“: Alfredo arrives followed by Violetta and the Baron. Alfredo and the Baron quarrel at the gambling table
  • “Invitato a qui seguirmi”: Violetta urges Alfredo to leave in fear of the Baron
  • “Questa donna conoscete?”: Alfredo calls the party to witness the scene
  • “Ogni suo aver tal femmina”: Alfredo humiliates Violetta by throwing the money she had spent for him at her feet
  • “Di sprezzo degno se stesso rende”: Giorgio Germont arrives and reprimands Alfredo
  • “Alfredo, di questo core”: Violetta addresses Alfredo, telling him he cannot comprehend her heart

Musical Numbers – Act 3

  • Instrumental Intermezzo 3
  • “Annina. Comandate?”: Violetta is told she only has hours to live
  • “Teneste la promessa”: Violetta reads a letter from Giorgio
  • “Addio del passato”: Violetta laments her oncoming death, and says goodbye to the past
  • “Largo al quadrupede”: A passing carnival is heard outside
  • “Signora che t’accade”: Annina announces the arrival of Alfredo
  • “Parigi o cara”: Alfredo tells Violetta that they will leave Paris and live a beautiful life leaving past in the past
  • “Ah! non piu a un tempio”: Violetta asks to go to the church and give thanks
  • “Ah! gran Dio morir si giovine”: Violetta laments the untimeliness of her oncoming death
  • “Ah! Violetta voi signor”: Giorgio expresses his regrets for everything he’s done
  • “Prendi quest e l’imagine”: Violetta gives Alfredo a picture of herself and send him wishes for his future life

La Traviata Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis – Act 1

Act one opens at the home of Violetta Valéry, where an extravagant party is being held. Violetta is celebrating recovery from an illness, and is delighted that her friends are around her (“Dell’invito trascorsa è già l’ora” – “It is well past the time you were invited”). Her friend Gastone approaches Violetta and introduces her to Alfredo Germont, who Gastone claims is a big admirer of hers. Gastone goes on to tell Violetta that Alfredo had come every day while she was sick, and has thought of nothing but her. Violetta thanks Alfredo, and jokes that the Baron never treated her so well. The Baron is annoyed and refusing to give a toast, Alfredo begins to give his toast (“Libiam ne’ lieti calici” – “Let’s drink from your joyous Chalice”)

Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez, and the Met Chorus sing the Act I drinking song in the December 15, 2018

As Violetta invites the party into the next room to dance, she begins to feel sick and dizzy (“Che è ciò?” – “What’s that?”). She tells everybody to go ahead and she will join them in a moment. Alfredo lingers and stays behind with Violetta, expressing his concern for her. Alfredo declares his love for her, telling her that nobody in the world loves her like he does. Violetta laughs and brushes his comments off, and asks how long he has loved her? He replies that he’s loved her for a year, and talks about the day his love for her began (“Un dì, felice, etera” – “One happy day”). Not ready for his love, Violetta tells him to look for somebody else, as friendship is all she can offer him. However, she is eventually softened, and kisses Alfredo.

Ana Netrebko and Rolando Villazón perform “Un dì, felice, eterea”

As the party comes to an end, Violetta gives Alfredo a flower, and tells him to return tomorrow when it has wilted (“Ebben? che diavol fate?” – “Well now? What the devil are you up to?”). The group returns as dawn is breaking (“Si ridesta in ciel l’aurora” – “The dawn is breaking in the sky”). Violetta says goodbye to everybody, and as the Baron goes to kiss her goodbye she refuses, looking annoyed with him. With the party gone, Violetta sings of what joy it is to feel loved, but wonders if it’s good for her to be in love (“È strano! è strano!” – “How strange! How strage!”). But angered with herself, she goes on to declare that she will be free and aimless, enjoying herself in other ways than love (Sempre libera” – “Always free”). Alfredo is heard offstage singing of love. Violetta is torn.

Lisette Oropesa performing “Sempre libera” at the Opera Philadelphia

Full Synopsis – Act 2, Scene 1

Act 2 opens with Alfredo in his home by himself. He tells that it’s been three months since Violetta gave up her luxurious, bustling city life to be with him here in the country (“Lunge da lei” – “When she is away”). He sings of how he feels reborn and revived by her love. He sings more of their passionate love for each other (“De’ miei bollenti spiriti” – “My passionate spirit”).

Placido Domingo performing “De Miei bollenti spiriti”

Their maid Annina enters, looking agitated. She tells Alfredo that the cost of country living has caught up with them, and Violetta has sent her to sell her carriage, horses, and all other possessions to raise money (“Annina, donde vieni?” – “Annina, where have you been?”). Alfredo, worried, tells Annina to go and not tell Violetta that they have spoken. He claims there is still time to set things right, and tells her he is off to Paris. Alone again, he sings of his disgrace for being in this position and takes his leave (“O mio rimorso!” – “Oh my remorse”).

Juan Diego Flórez sings “O mio Rimorso!” at the Met

Violetta enters and asks Annina where Alfredo has gone (“Alfredo? – “Per Parigi or or partiva.” – “Alfredo? He’s just gone to Paris”). Violetta opens a letter saying Flora has invited her to a dance, but at that moment Violetta receives a visitor (“Mademoiselle Valéry?”). He enters and claims he is the father of Alfredo, the boy he believes is running head first into his own ruin all because of her. Insulted, she begins to take her leave, but is stopped when Giorgio says he will lose everything because of her lavish lifestyle. Violetta shows him the document to sell all of her possessions and says that the past is the past, now she only loves Alfredo. Giorgio goes on to make a request of her. He tells her that he in fact has two children (“Pura siccome un angelo” – “As pure as an angel”). He tells her that his daughter is happily engaged, but if Alfredo doesn’t come back to his family that their wedding will be called off because of her reputation. Violetta considers whether leaving for a short while is acceptable, but Giorgio demands that she must leave him forever.

Dmitry Hvorostovsky and Marina Rebeka/Violetta sing: “Pura siccome un angelo”

Violetta refuses to leave Alfredo, claiming he cannot know her life’s difficulties and how Alfredo is the only thing keeping her from suffering and death(“Non sapete quale affetto” – ”You do not know the kind of passion”). Alfredo is softened, but tells her that they are not married, and their relationship has not been blessed by God. He pleads her to be a “consoling angel” to his family (“È grave il sacrifizio” – “The sacrifice is heavy”). Violetta tells him that before she dies, she will make this sacrifice for his daughter (“Dite alla giovine” – “Tell the young girl”).

Ermonela Jaho (Violetta Valéry) and Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Giorgio Germont) perform “Dite alla giovane”

Saddened and lost, Violetta asks Giorgio how to go about leaving Alfredo (“Imponete” – “What must I do”). After going through several options she decides to write Alfredo a letter. Giorgio, filled with graciousness asks what he could possibly do for Violetta. She responds that she will die soon (“Morrò!” – “I shall soon die”), and she requests to not let her sacrifice go unknown after she dies. Giorgio agrees, and as somebody approaches, they say a nice farewell. Violetta sits down, and through tears writes her letter to Alfredo (“Dammi tu forza, o cielo!” – “Heavens, give me strength”).

Production from the Teatro La Fenice (Venice) designed by Pier Luigi Pizzi (December 1992)

As she is writing, Alfredo enters and inquires to what she is doing (“Che fai?” – “What are you doing?”). Violetta quickly hides the letter. Hysterical and not knowing what to do, Alfredo reassures her of his love before she runs out. Alfredo takes a seat, but it isn’t long before a man walks in, handing him the letter from Violetta. Alfredo reads the letter and is found suffering when his father walks in (“Ah, vive sol quel core all’amor mio!” – “Ah, only that heart lives for my love!”). Giorgio consoles his son by telling him to remember peaceful and happy times, and how hard it has been without him at home (“Di Provenza il mar, il suol chi dal cor ti cancellò?” – “Who erased the sea, the land of Provence from your heart?”).

Simon Keenlyside performs “Di Provenza il mar, il suol”

Giorgio encourages Alfredo to leave with him, but he is blinded by pain and anger (“Né rispondi d’un padre all’affetto?” – “No response to your father’s love?”). He suspects that the Baron Duphol is the reason for Violetta leaving, and finding the party invitation on his desk is determined to go meet her.

Full Synopsis – Act 2, Scene 2

Scene 2 opens in Flora’s estate with the party starting (“Avrem lieta di maschere la notte” – “There will be maskers to liven up the evening”). She is expecting Alfredo and Violetta, but is informed that they have separated, and that she will be coming with the Baron. The gypsy and matador performers arrive and begin to entertain (“Noi siamo zingarelle” – “We are gypsies”).

“Noi siamo zingarelle” performed at the Bastille Opera

Alfredo arrives and greets his friends (“Alfredo! Voi!”). He goes to the gambling table while Violett and the Baron arrive. Seeing Alfredo, the Baron forbids Violetta from speaking to him. Alfredo, noticing their arrival, proclaims that he will be leaving at the end of the night with both his winnings from gambling and Violetta, who had run out earlier. The Baron is angered and goes to the gambling table with the goal of beating Alfredo. Alfredo wins two hands in a row, but before they can go on dinner is served. The Baron, angered, tells Alfredo he will have his revenge later, to which Alfredo responds that he will win in any game they play.

“Alfredo, voi” performed at Salzburg Festspiele in 2005

The party leaves for dinner, but Violetta rushes back in wondering why Alfredo hasn’t followed her like asked (“Invitato a qui seguirmi” – “I told him to follow me here”). Alfredo arrives, and Violetta urges him to leave in fear of what the Baron will do. Alfredo, unafraid of the Baron, presses Violetta who declares that she loves tha Baron. Alfredo yells for the rest of the party to come, and when they arrive he addresses them (“Questa donna conoscete?” – “Do you know this woman?”). He goes on to explain to the party how Violetta had sold all of her possessions to be with him. Throwing his winnings at her feet he declares he has now paid her back (“Ogni suo aver tal femmina” – “This woman has sold all of her posessions”), causing Violetta to faint. The party, angered at Alfredo, begins to kick him out calling his actions shameful. Giorgio Germont enters, and seeing Alfredo’s actions, shames him in front of the party guests (“Di sprezzo degno se stesso rende” – “He makes himself worthy of contempt”). Alfredo admits his wrong, and feels remorseful, but the party does not forgive him. Violetta addreses him, telling him he can’t understand, but soon he will know all and realize her love (“Alfredo, di questo core” – “Alfredo, from this heart”).

Marina Rebeka performs “Alfredo, di questo core”

Full Synopsis – Act 3

Alone in her room sick in bed, Violetta calls for Annina (“Annina. Comandate?” – “Annina. Did you call me?”). The doctor arrives to check on Violetta, she says that a priest has come to see her already. On the way out, the doctor tells Annina that Violetta is only a few hours from death. She instructs Annina to give half of her remaining money to the poor, and tells her to go check if any letters have come for her. Left alone, she opens a letter from Giorgio Germont (“Teneste la promessa” – “You’ve kept your promise”). Giorgio writes that a duel has taken place between Alfredo and the Baron, and the Baron was wounded but it recovering. Alfredo is abroad, but he has told him of her sacrifice, and he is rushing back to ask for her forgiveness. Violetta exclaims that it is too late, and fears that she will be ddead before he arrives (“Addio, del passato” – “Goodbye to the past”).

“Teneste la promessa” and “Addio, del passato” performed live

A passing carnival is heard outside (“Largo al quadrupede” – “Make way for the quadruped”), and Annina bursts in announcing the arrival of Alfredo (“Signora. che t’accade?” – “Madame. What’s happened?”). Together once more Alfredo and Violetta are overjoyed. They both admit their wrong and swear nothing will tear them apart again. Alfredo tells her that they will leave Paris and live a beautiful life leaving past in the past (“Parigi o cara” – “Paris my dear”).

Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Flórez sing Violetta and Alfredo’s Act III duet in the December 15, 2018

Violetta exclaims that they should rush to church and give thanks for his return (“Ah, non più, a un tempio” – “Ah, no more, to the church”), but collapses upon rising. They all realize that she doesn’t have much time left. Violetta sends Annina to fetch the doctor to tell him Alfredo has returned and that she wants to live again. She laments the timing of her oncoming death (“Gran Dio! morir sì giovane” – “Oh god, to die so young”). Giorgio arrives with the doctor and Annina. Giorgio says he has come to embrace her as a daughter and regrets everything (“Ah, Violetta!” – “Oh, Violetta”). Violetta, handing Alfredo a picture of herself, tells her to remember her in her happier days, and that if another woman should ever have his heart, to give her the picture and tell her it is a gift from heaven that prays always for them both (“Prendi quest’è l’immagine” – “Take this picture of me”). Saying all of the pain has left her body, she feels revived and full of life once more. But a moment later, she dies in Alfredo’s arms.