Opera Explained – La Traviata
- Thomson Smillie
La Traviata owes its enduring popularity to a superb story of young love and fatal sacrifice, set to music by Italy’s master melodist at the peak of his powers. Interest and poignancy are added by the fact that this is a true story – the baritone ‘heavy’ is Alexander Dumas who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo. But it is the central figure, the heroine Violetta, the archetypal ‘whore with the heart of gold’ who dominates the piece. It is her opera and we love her for it. A superb ‘human interest’ story, a captivating cast of characters, and music which is both enchanting and insightful: just some of La Traviata’s ingredients explaining its enduring popularity. The characters are outlined with Smillie’s reliable blend of insight and originality: ‘Violetta, we must accept, is the proverbial Whore with the Heart of Gold, and this ravishing melody goes a long way towards melting the said heart.’ David Timson narrates throughout.