La traviata

Welcome to the La traviata Educational Resources page!

Meet Violetta.

Verdi’s tragic heroine takes center stage in one of the most frequently performed operas of all time – La traviata. Violetta Valéry, a courtesan who knows she will soon die, falls in love with the handsome Alfredo, but – as often happens in opera – their happiness cannot last. Soprano Marina Costa-Jackson, who took first place in 2015 in the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions, takes the stage as Violetta. American tenor Scott Quinn will make his Austin Opera debut as Alfredo. Michael Chioldi performs the pivotal role of Alfredo’s father, Giorgio.

Austin Opera’s production will be sung in Italian, with English supertitles.
Parent Info: The production includes some hugging and kissing and one death.

La traviata: At a Glance

Go to the GETTING TO KNOW OPERA page to learn basics about opera, opera history and voice types.

In conjunction with Austin Opera’s upcoming production of La traviata, students in Central Texas are invited to share their artistic talents and flare for couture by participating in our Student costume design project. We want to see how YOU would dress up to attend Violetta’s party in La traviata.

2 EASY STEPS to creating your COSTUME DESIGN

GUISEPPE VERDI (1813-1901)
“I adore art… when I am alone with my notes, my heart pounds and the tears stream from my eyes, and my emotion and my joys are too much to bear.” – Verdi

Richard Strauss Biography – Opera 101
An extensive biography of Giuseppe Verdi with audio/visual excerpts

Giuseppe Verdi – from Wikipedia

Giuseppe Verdi – website

Giuseppe Verdi – Encyclopedia Britannica

Inside Austin Opera – Interview with David Lefkowich
Check out this exciting interview featuring David Lefkowich, stage director for La traviata. The interview also features Ethan Boone and DeSyre Collier, students from Lehman HS in Hays CISD.

Metropolitan Opera Study Guide
This study guide has a lot of great activities and information.  Some specific pages of interest:
Page 6: Who’s Who Chart for characters in La traviata
Page 8 & 9: Historical timeline of significant events that occurred during Verdi’s lifetime
Page 10-13: Classroom Activity (High School) – Courtesans and City Life in the 19th Century – This is an in-depth lesson that addresses the subject of Violetta’s occupation and compares historical and contemporary opportunities for women in society
Page 25: What Would You Do? Activity Sheet for this lesson
Page 26-30: Historical Readings to go with lesson and Response Questions
Page 19: Ten Essential Musical Terms – a great list of musical terms and definitions associated with opera

Canadian Opera Study Guide

Boston Lyric Opera Study Guide

Lyric Opera of Kansas City Study Guide
This study guide provides a good explanation of the institution of the courtesan.  Here is an excerpt:
“Before we continue, an explanation of the institution of the courtesan is in order. Courtesans were not simply prostitutes or even high-class call girls. While they did provide sexual favors for those men who were wealthy enough to afford their services, they were well-educated women who were valued as much for their sophistication and intellectual gifts as they were for their beauty and physical companionship. And unlike the women who have figured so prominently in recent sex scandals in the United States, they enjoyed open relationships with their male companions. In an era where upper-class women were denied higher education, they served an important function. In fact, some even charged for conversation alone.”

Other useful information in this study guide includes:
Pages 7-16: Provide a very detailed plot outline, with references to important arias and musical events.
Pages 18-22: A nice biography of Giuseppe Verdi
Pages 23-24: Background information on Dumas (novel writer) and Piave (librettist)


How to perform an operatic icon – Violetta
Soprano Corinne Winters reveals how she approached performing one of all opera’s most iconic characters, Violetta from La traviata – a character whose influence is felt far and wide, including in the film Pretty Woman.

Here are several great videos of selections from and full performances of Verdi’s opera, La traviata.


La traviata – Met Production, 2007
Renee Fleming, soprano
Rolando Villazón, tenor

La traviata
This version was filmed for television. It is sung in Italian and has subtitles in Spanish. Plácido Domingo is the conductor of the orchestra. You can experience a traditional Italian opera audience at the end – roses are tossed on stage and lots of “Bravos, Bravas, and Bravis.”

La traviata – Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Violetta is sung by Angela Gheorghiu. Sir Georg Solti is the conductor.


“Prelude” – Orchestra of The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Sir Georg Solti, conductor
Verdi was known for composing the preludes and overtures to his operas almost as an afterthought. That is definitely the case here. The reason for this choice is to set the mood for the opera by introducing thematic ideas and motives.

The Prelude to Act I exposes two essential musical themes but in reverse chronological order of the events to follow on stage. The opening bars of music are sparsely orchestrated – with a slow tempo, high range of pitch and diminishing phrase lengths. This first theme depicts the dying Violetta as she finally gives in to her illness. We can call this the “Frailty Theme.”

The second musical theme is more grand and lilting, quite a contrast to the first. It depicts the vigorous life that resides in Violetta earlier in the story, when she sings of her love for Alfredo. This “Love Theme” is a little faster, has a warmer timbre and consistent 4-bar phrase lengths. Even before a word is sung, Verdi foreshadows in the Prelude the collision of sinful illness and redemptive love.


“Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” – also known as “Brindisi” or “The Drinking Song”
Glyndebourne Opera House, July 2014
“Brindisi” (The Drinking Song)
Luciano Pavarotti, tenor – 1993, Modena, Italy

This famous duet with chorus occurs at the start of Act I, during a party at Violetta Valéry’s house. It is sung by Violetta and Alfredo Germont, a young man who is in love with her. Alfredo is encouraged by his friend to show off his voice.

Translation –
Let’s drink, let’s drink from the joyous chalices
that beauty blossoms.
And may the fleeting moment
be elated with voluptuousness.
Let’s drink from the sweet thrills
that love arouses,
because that eye aims straight to the almighty heart.
Let’s drink, my love: the love among chalices
will have warmer kisses.

Ah! Let’s drink, my love: the love among chalices
will have warmer kisses.

With you, with you I’ll be able to share
my cheerful times.
Everything is foolish in the world
which is not pleasure.
Let’s enjoy ourselves, for fleeting and quick
the delight of love is:
it’s a flower that blooms and dies
and can no longer be enjoyed.
Let’s enjoy ourselves, fervent
flattering voice invites us!

Ah! Let’s enjoy the cup, the cup and the chants,
the embellished night and the laughter;
let the new day find us in this paradise.

Life means celebration,
If one hasn’t known love,
Don’t tell someone who doesn’t know,
But this is my fate…

Ah, yes! Let’s enjoy the cup, the cup and the chants,
the embellished night and the laughter;
let the new day find us in this paradise.


“Un dì, felice, eterea”
Opéra national de Paris, 2014
Ermonela Jaho, soprano
Francesco Meli, baritone
Benoît Jacquot, stage director
“Un dì, felice, eterea”
With subtitles in Spanish
“Un dì, felice, eterea” – Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1965
A historic recording featuring Luciano Pavarotti, tenor and Renata Scott, soprano

This duet from Act I is sung by the male and female protagonists of the opera, Alfredo (tenor) and Violetta (soprano). The main melody of the duet is an important musical theme that you will hear throughout the opera. This song is also heard in the movie Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts.

Translation –
One day, you, happy, ethereal,
appeared in front of me,
and ever since, trembling,
I lived from unknown love.
That love that’s the pulse of the universe, the whole universe,
Mysterious, mysterious and proud,
torture, torture and delight
torture and delight, delight to the heart.


If that is true, forget me.
Friendship is all I can offer.
I don’t know how to love.
I couldn’t feel so great an emotion.
I’m being honest with you, sincere.
You should find somebody else.
Then you wouldn’t find it hard
to forget me.


“E strano! E strano! … Ah, fors’è lui” “Sempre libera”
A historic recording of Maria Callas singing the role of Violetta, with English subtitles.
“Sempre libera”
Anna Netrebko, soprano
Rolando Villazón, tenor
Carlo Rizzi, conductor
Willy Decker, stage director
Salzburg Festival

In this extended aria from Act I, Violetta declares that maybe Alfredo is the one love of her life, but in the end concludes that she needs freedom to live her life.

Translation –
It’s strange! It’s strange! In my heart
I’ve these words engraved!
Maybe for me a mishap a serious love?
What shall you do, my troubled soul?
No man before turned on you…Oh joy
that I didn’t know, loving been loved!
Shall I disdain that joy,
through the dry madness of my life?

Ah! Maybe is he
that often enjoyed painting
my soul -alone in the tumult-
with his concealed colors!!
He, that demure and watchful
ascended at the soul’s doors
and turned on a new fever
waking up into me the love.
At that love that is palpitation
of the entire universe,
mysterious, haughty,
cross and delight of the heart.
That future’s man
sculptured very sweetly
into me, maiden, a pure
and candid desire,
when in the sky
his beauty’s ray I saw
and I delighted myself
about that divine mistake.
I felt that love is palpitation
of the entire universe
mysterious, haughty
cross and delight of the heart!

Madness! Madness! Vain delirium is this!
Poor, lonely woman!
Abandoned in this
populous desert
that people call “Paris”…
What shall I hope for??
What shall I do?
Have fun,
Having pleasure die in the whirls!!

Always free I must
frolic from joy to another joy,
I want my life to run
through the pleasure’s roads,
Although the day is bore or dies,
always happy in my clubs
at joys always new
must fly my mind.


“Addio del passato”
Anna Netrebko, soprano
Salzburg Festival, 2005

Violetta sings this heartbreaking aria after reading a letter from Alfredo’s father, letting Violetta know that his son is returning to be home with her. As she realizes she has lost her battle with her illness, she sings goodbye to her happiness and future with Alfredo.

Translation –
Farewell, happy dreams of the past,
The rosiness in my cheeks has already gone pale;
The love of Alfredo I will miss,
Comfort, support my tired soul
Ah, the misguided desire to smile;
God pardon and accept me,
All is finished.

The joys, the sorrows soon will end,
The tomb confines all mortals!
Do not cry or place flowers at my grave,
Do not place a cross with my name to cover these bones!
Ah, the misguided desire to smile;
God pardon and accept me,
All is finished.