La Traviata Proves that Opera’s Storylines Endure the Test of Time

There is a reason La Traviata was the most performed opera during the 2012-2013 operatic season.  Not Don Giovanni.  Not Carmen.  Not La Boheme.  Not even Madame Butterfly.  But La Traviata.  Written by composer Giuseppe Verdi and debuted in 1852.  So, what makes La Traviata the most popular opera?  Audiences in Southern California, at least, were able to find out.  Recently the titular opera was at a three day limited engagement at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County, conducted by maestro Carl St. Clair.  After a resplendent performance at Segerstrom by an ensemble cast, one may infer La Traviata’s popularity is due to its relatable storylines.  Its tale of love, class separation and associated social stigma are ubiquitous in today’s contemporary melodramas.  Present-day and 20th century films included subplots parallel to those in La Traviata.  Plotpoints such as delineating the adequacy of a suitable mate and if they are good enough for one’s kin (See Titanic).  Or families becoming hesitant when their child becomes serious in a relationship with someone with a checkered past (See Dallas).       

La Traviata is a love story about a woman named Violetta, who is for lack of a better term, a high class escort (See Pretty Woman).  She falls in love with Alberto, who is not royalty, but is from a more prestigious family, to say the least.  Alberto’s father opposes this proposed union between his son and Violetta.  He knows of her being a courtesean, and he worries that her reputation will adversely affect his daughter’s engagement with her illustrious fiance.  La Traviata’s relevance in having the father of a son be deeply concerned about his kin’s romantic prevails is a theme commonly revisited (See Birdcage).  The lack of a strong female presence replaced by an overprotective father creates a twist on the usual Oedipus storyline.  Verdi takes the story to show how Alberto’s father, Monsieur Germont comes to become more open minded about Violetta when he notices her table manner and sophistication.  Her demeanor, haute etiquette and rising status in the social scene almost mask her sullied past.  Except it all comes to a crashing end.  Violetta who has been ill all along gets worse suddenly and succumbs to her illness.  But not all is finite.  La Traviata's storylines at least seem to endure the test of time, unlike the fleeting love between Alberto and Violetta. 

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28 Mar 2017

By Iman Sadri