Violetta Valery is a beautiful, engaging courtesan. In the world of the rich and powerful of Paris in the mid 19th century, social conventions bound everyone to a lifestyle that on the surface was righteous and proper. But beneath the surface existed another world–a half world, or as it is called in French, a demi-monde, where the nobility of the time could enjoy every excess their wealth could offer them, including the company of women. These courtesans were more than prostitutes–they were kept women who were expected to entertain for their patron, go to the theater and opera with him, and perform other services within the boundaries of the conventions of the demi-monde. It is within this setting that we meet our heroine, who is holding a supper party for her patron and lover, the Baron Duphol.

Act 1. Fall in Paris. Gaston introduces his friend, Alfredo Germont, to Violetta. He explains that Alfredo came every day during her recent illness to inquire after her health. It is clear that Violetta has been ill, but her friends do not realize she has the scourge of the 19th century, tuberculosis. In the famous Brindisi, or drinking song, Alfredo sings a toast to love, to which she replies. Here is Verdi at his most tuneful, ever balancing serious art with melodies that everyone adores. As the guests go off to dance, Violetta collapses in a fit of coughing. Quickly recovering, she tells them to proceed to the ballroom, but Alfredo lingers behind and declares his love for her. She laughs at his passion but is touched by his sincerity. She dismisses him but tells him that he may return when the camellia she has given him has faded. The guests leave and she remains alone to consider Alfredo’s invitation to love. She realizes that the social conventions that bind her life make true love impossible, and she resolves to continue her life of feverish gaiety in the thrilling aria Sempre libera (Always Free).

Act 2. Spring. Violetta’s country house. For several months Violetta has been living happily with Alfredo. In an expression of naïve, exuberant love, Alfredo says his soul is in heaven when he is with Violetta. Alfredo surprises the maid, on her return from Paris. She reluctantly tells him that Violetta has been selling off her property to pay for the life she is now leading. His pride wounded, Alfredo leaves for Paris immediately to secure funds to pay the household expenses. In his absence, Violetta receives a visit from his father, Giorgio Germont. Here follows the conflict that drives the story–a well to do, middle class businessman from the provinces has come to confront the courtesan he believes is ruining his son’s life. He tells her that their illicit love affair is the reason why his daughter cannot be married. We might expect this music to be filled with anger, yet Verdi treats us to a lyricism that is at once simple yet compellingly beautiful. This tells us that this father, our antagonist, is not an ogre, but a well-meaning, gentle man who is motivated by his need to meet social conventionalities.

At first, Violetta assumes Germont wants her to leave Alfredo until the wedding is over, but that is not what he wants. He reminds her that her past will always haunt them, and that true love can never be hers. In despair, Violetta tells him that Alfredo is all she lives for, and such a sacrifice would kill her. In the months she has been in the country with Alfredo, her health has improved and she truly believes she has escaped her past, and her illness. Germont cruelly tells her that someday her beauty will fade and Alfredo, like all men, will grow tired of her. Succumbing to his unrelenting demands, Violetta sacrifices herself to the father’s wishes, asking only to be embraced as a daughter and to allow her to break the news to Alfredo. Having won, Germont leaves Violetta to decide how to break it off with Alfredo. She wants to write him a letter and leave before he returns, but Alfredo surprises her. She quickly hides the letter she just finished, and says she is leaving for a short while, but will return. Then turning to leave, she frantically confesses her love for him. Aflredo reads the letter and is crushed beyond belief. His father reappears to offer consolation and to ask him to come home to the family that loves him. Angrily rejecting this suggestion, Alfredo notices an invitation from Flora, one of Violetta’s friends, and he concludes that this is where he will find her.

Scene 2. At Flora’s a magnificent party is underway complete with gambling, dancing, entertainment and gypsy fortune tellers. Violetta has returned to her former patron, Baron Duphol, and arrives with him. Alfredo then enters, to the surprise of everyone. He gambles with the Baron and wins a substantial sum. Violetta begs Alfredo to leave, but he forces her to explain her behavior; in desperation, and to protect Alfredo’s father, she says that she no longer loves him. At this, Aflredo calls the guests to witness that he pays his debts in full and throws his winnings at the face of the courtesan. Flora’s guests are outraged at his cruel behavior, and the Baron challenges Alfredo to a duel.

Act III. Winter. Violetta’s bedroom. Violetta’s health has declined, the Baron has left her, and her money is almost gone. She tells Annina to give half of what little remains on the poor. She has received a letter from Alfredo’s father explaining that Alfredo wounded the Baron in his duel, and that Alfredo has left Paris. He tells her that his son now knows the truth of her sacrifice and that they will both soon return to ask her forgiveness.Too late, she cries, and in the magnificent aria Addio del passato, she realizes her life will soon be over. Alfredo arrives and for a moment, he convinces her she will recover and again be happy. It is too late for her, and she gives Alfredo a locket that she tells him to give to the woman he will someday marry. She asks him to be happy and to remember her. Reconciled to both father and son, and no longer bound by social convention, Violetta’s sacrifice is complete as the curtain falls.

Meet the Composer

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

Born in Busse to to Carlo Guiseppe Verdi, an innkeeper, Verdi attended the local Jesuit school where he was first introduced to music. His great benefactor, Antonio Barezzi, recognized the boy’s exceptional musical talent. By the age of 10, Verdi was the assistant organist at his local church; at the age of 13, Verdi was already an assistant conductor of the Busse to Orchestra. As a young man, he moved to Milan but was not accepted in the conservatory that today bears his name, because he exceeded the age limit and his skills as a pianist were deemed to be provincial. Instead, he took private lessons from Vincenzo Lavigna, the harpsichordist at the Scala Theater. In 1837, he composed his first opera, Oberto, which enjoyed moderate success. It was with Nabucco (1842), however, that Verdi became a legend.

Between 1850 and 1853, Giuseppe Verdi would compose his three most famous and beloved operas — Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, and La Traviata. Of his twenty-seven operas, these three form the core of his middle period of composition, and fully express his musical and dramatic power. Only a few weeks separate the premieres of Il Trovatore in Rome and La Traviata in Venice. Indeed, sections of La Traviata were written on the train between Rome, Venice, and Verdi’s villa at Sant’Agata.

La Traviata is based on the play La Dame aux camelias by Alexander Dumas, the son of the famous author of The Three Musketeers. Best known to Classic Movie buffs as Camille, the play was first performed in Paris in 1852 and Verdi saw a performance. The basis of La Dame aux camelias lies in fact–a true liaison between the author Dumas and the beautiful Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis, who he lived with during the summer of 1845.

None of Verdi’s operas before La Traviata dealt with a contemporary setting–from Nabucco to Il Trovatore, the settings were historic or mythical, the characters representations of human emotions, but never actual living people. La Traviata is set in what would have been contemporary times, i.e., Paris in the 1850’s, and its subject, which deals with an illicit love affair by a young man from the provinces with a provocative kept woman, includes scenes showing the rich and powerful being involved with the demi-monde, the world of courtesans, gambling, and extravagance of Paris at that time–taboo subjects that were scandalous.

On opening night, the Venetian public saw characters dressed as they would have dressed, in circumstances dealing with women of loose virtue, familial conflict and the most dreaded of contemporary illnesses, tuberculosis. Add to this the fact that soprano Fanny Salvini-Donatelli, the first Violetta, was a stout woman portraying a beautiful, frail and vulnerable courtesan, and you have the makings of a disaster–and a disaster it was. The day after the March 6 premiere, Verdi wrote to his assistant, “Emanuele: Traviata last night–a fiasco. Was it my fault or the singers? Time will tell.” Time has indeed judged that La traviata is one of Verdi’s greatest works, the third of this famous triumverate of operas from this extraordinarily creative period in his long and productive life.

By the age of 49, Verdi had been elected deputy to the first Italian parliament and, at Cavour’s request, composed a national hymn to promote feelings of solidarity within the new nation. With the death of Rossini in 1868,Verdi composed his magnificent Requiem Mass. Ever wavering between retirement and the seduction of a new project, Verdi composed Aida in 1871, intended to be Egypt’s national opera.With its premiere in Cairo, the opera became an immediate success and has remained one of Verdi’s greatest artistic achievements. His final works, Otello and Falstaff, are the crowning achievements of the illustrious career of one of music’s greatest composers

Meet the Cast

Melinda Whittington

Melinda Whittington


Dominic Armstrong

Dominic Armstrong


Hyung Yun

Hyung Yun


Ashley West-Davis

Ashley West-Davis


Michael Owens

Michael Owens


Dan Boye

Dan Boye


Ramelle Brooks

Ramelle Brooks


John Fortson

John Fortson


Hannah Hoyt

Hannah Hoyt



James Meena


Sam Mungo


Michael Baumgarten


Emily Jarrell Urbanek


Martha Ruskai


Valerie Wheeler


Ease into Opera with the Student Night Experience

Student Night at the Opera is an unforgettable outing for K-12 students, families and traditional school and homeschool groups. With low cost tickets, some of the best seats in the Belk Theater, and timeless tales set to incredible music, Student Night is the perfect cultural experience for the Charlotte region’s youth!



  • Pre-Opera performances by local students
  • Q&A with cast members at intermission
  • English supertitles above the stage
  • Youth Guides to help you make the most of your evening
  • Great prices, great seats, and of course – great music!

How Do I Get Tickets?

  • Visit CarolinaTix and search for Opera Carolina events
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