An opera by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play by Alexandre Dumas fils La dame aux camélias
Revival on October 29, 2009
The timeless opera classics La traviata has become one of the most beloved operas in the whole world. It is also one of the most frequently performed operas at the Estonian National Opera to which the audience has applauded in seven premieres within nearly a hundred years.
The play by Dumas fils was published in 1849 and staged in 1852. Giuseppe Verdi, who attended the premiere, was so fascinated by the play that he based his opera La traviata on it. La traviata premiered the next year. It is a moving love story haunted by the morality of society and Violetta’s past. Ephemeral happiness ends in tragedy.
Stage Director: Neeme Kuningas
Designer: Anna Kontek (Finland)
10 September 2016 / 19:00
2 October 2016 / 17:00
3 November 2016 / 19:00
7 June 2017 / 19:00
20 June 2017 / 19:00
In the Salon in the house of Violetta Valéry, a fascinating and much-wooed courtesan in fashionable Parisian society, a sumptuous reception is in progress. Among the last guests to arrive, after gambling at cards in the house of Flora Bervoix, Viscount Gaston de Letorières introduces Violetta to Alfredo Germont, who is a fervent admirer of hers: so deeply in love, confides Gaston, that when she was recently ill he came each day to enquire secretly after her health. Violetta, touched by this unusual devotion, amiably dispels the young man’s shyness. Encouraged by his friends, Alfredo improvises a toast to beauty and to the joy of life. After supper, as the guests move off towards the ballroom, Violetta has a sudden fit of coughing. Alfredo, who is alone with her, begs her fondly to take more care of her health, assuring her that he would know how to look after her jealously. And tenderly he declares his love to her. Violetta is surprised and feigns indifference, replying that he will receive only friendship from her. Inwardly, however, she is perturbed by this confession. Plucking a flower from her bosom, she offers it to Alfredo for him to bring back when it has withered. Exultantly he takes it to mean an invitation to return the following day. Dawn has risen and the guests take their leave after the dancing. In solitude, Violetta ponders over Alfredo’s words of love. For the first time, someone has expressed a sincere affection for her. Accustomed to spend her life among fleeting joys and worldly pleasures, should she take him seriously, and change her way of life? No, she resolves not to pursue this foolish illusion. Though deep in her heart she feels that their love must be true.
In a country house near Paris Violetta and Alfredo are spending an idyllic life together, far from the social whirl of the capital. Alfredo expresses the fullness of his joy at this delightful situation, which has lasted now for three months. But the spell is unexpectedly broken by Annina, the maid, who tells him she has been to Paris upon Violetta’s orders, to sell jewels, horses and property to pay for the expenses of their stay in the country. Alfredo’s pride is hurted and he decides to leave at once in order to settle these affairs personally. Violetta enters. She is reading a letter from Flora, who has discovered the lovers’ retreat and invites her friend to a reception that same evening. Let her wait in vain, smiles Violetta. In the meantime a visit is announced. Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father, introduces himself to Violetta with a contemptuous air, convinced that the woman is being kept by his son. Proudly Violetta shows Germont the deed of sale of her estate. Germont is favourably impressed by this gesture. However he asks her on the strength of her affection, to renounce Alfredo in order not to ruin the happiness of another member of his family, his daughter, whose marriage with a young man «of good family» is liable to fall through unless her brother’s scandalous liaison is broken off. Violetta claims the rights of her love, telling Germont of her serious state of health, and desperately resists his pressing requests. But in the end she yields. In resignation she agrees to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of Alfredo and his loved ones. She promises Germont, who is deeply moved, to face her immense sorrow alone and never to reveal to Alfredo why she has deserted him so precipitately. She is on the point of writing him a farewell letter when Alfredo himself appears and asks the reason for her strange uneasiness. Violetta answers with a heartrending cry of love, before hastening away. Later she sends him a note saying that she has decided to return to her former society life and old friends. Alfredo is deeply shaken. Germont arrives, but his fond words of consolation are of no avail, even though he reminds his son of the peaceful times spent in their native Provence, where he invites him to savour once again the warmth of family affection.
In a hall in the house of Flora Bervoix. A masked ball is in full swing. Violetta is in attendanceon the arm of Baron Douphol, her former protector. Not expecting to find Alfredo there,she is upset on seeing him, but he pretends to take no notice. He makes for the card tables, wherehe wins with shameless luck, while provoking Douphol’s resentment with vague allusions. The announcementof dinner prevents a quarrel, and the guests move into the dining room. Alfredo re-entersimmediately, having received an invitation from Violetta to talk with her. She implores him to leave and not to incur the baron’s wrath. Also, she confesses, if he would but realize, she fears most of all for his own life. But Alfredo replies that he will leave only if she will follow him. Violetta is compelled to reveal that she has sworn never to see him again. But since Alfredo insists on knowing who has had the right to impose this oath upon her, she allows him to understand that it was the Baron. Beside himself with jealousy and despair, Alfredo summons the guests. Confessing his shame at having allowed a woman to squander her fortune for him, he flings at Violetta’s feet a purse full of money, proclaiming that he has thus repaid her. Violetta faints, while Alfredo’s gesture is received with general indignation. Germont, who is arrived in the meantime, reproaches his already humiliated and repentant son, and drags him away, followed by Douphol who demands satisfaction for the insult to his partner.
Violetta, whose illness is by now beyond hope, is being looked after by the faithful Annina. It is a grey winter’s morning. Doctor Grenvil arrives and tries so instil hope and courage into his patient, but confesses to Annina that the end is near. Violetta once again re-reads the affectionate letter received from Germont, in which he thanks her for having kept her promise. He also informs her that the Baron was wounded in the duel and that he has at last revealed the truth to Alfredo, who is now on his way to visit her to beg forgiveness. A echo of carnival music and revelry rise from the street, Violetta gazes mournfully her pale image in the looking-glass and her heart breaks when she remembers the happy months spent with her lover. But now Annina enters to prepare her for a great emotion, followed at once by Alfredo, who throws himself into Violetta’s arms. Together they dream once again of a radiant future. Blissfully happy, Violetta would like to get dressed and go out into the festive city. But her strength fails her and she realizes she has not much longer to live. As Germont, who has joined his son, now clasps her to his heart like a daughter, she gives Alfredo a portrait of their happy years, begging him to keep it in memory of her who has loved him so deeply, and to offer it one day to the young woman who will be his future wife: on the stage Annina and Doctor Grenvil too. Suddenly she feels lifted by a mysterious force. Rising in one last longing for life, she falls back dead in Alfredo’s arms.
Estonian-born conductor Vello Pähn studied at the Tallinn Conservatory in St. Petersburg. During that time he was also engaged at the Estonian State Theatre where he conducted a broad range of operatic repertoire including Carmen, Madame Butterfly, La Traviata, Hovanštšina, L’Elisir d’amore, Duenja, Eugene Onegin and Le Nozze di Figaro, before launching an international career.
Vello Pähn’s collaboration with the legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev and the choreographer John Neumeier led to invitations from the world’s leading theatres and ballet companies. His command of the standard ballet repertoire, Cinderella, Le sacre du printemps, Othello, Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Onegin, and so on, has made him a house favourite at the Paris National Opera and Hamburg Ballet for over two decades. In autumn 2010, he conducted Swan Lake at the Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen and Finnish National Opera in Helsinki. In Copenhagen he returned with the opera Carmen in autumn 2012. Equally in demand as an opera conductor, Mr. Pähn made his debut at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland with Flying Dutchman and went on tour with this production in Spain. Vello Pähn returned to Savonlinna to conduct Gounod’s opera Faust. He has recently worked at the Berlin State Opera with Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, Donizetti’s Elisir d’Amore and in Yekaterinburg with a rare Rimsky-Korsakov opera Snow Maiden.
For many years Maestro Pähn has been frequently invited to many major German opera houses, including the Dresden Semperoper, Berlin State Opera, Stuttgart and Leipzig opera houses and of course not excluding elsewhere in Europe – the Vienna State Opera and La Scala in Milan. His engagements included performances in St. Petersburg with the Hamburg Ballet as well as a production based on Sergei Prokofiev’s Ivan le Terrible in Paris. He also led the revival of Savonlinna Opera Festival’s Flying Dutchman on a tour to the Hedeland Festival in Denmark and was invited back to Vienna for Manon.
Maestro Pähn started as the Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Estonian National Opera in fall 2012, where his first engagement was Faust by Charles Gounod followed by Wagner’s Tannhäuser.
In autumn 2013, he conducted the world premiere of Butterfly by the Estonian composer Tönu Körvits, in Tallinn. His recent work in Tallinn include Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, Cardillac by Paul Hindemith and Mozart’s The Magic Flute and this season he will conduct Arabella and Aida at the Estonian National Opera. This season at the Paris National Opera he will conduct over 30 performances of La nuit transfiguree and Le Sacre du printempts. His work as a ballet conductor will continue withsome new projects at the Zurich, Vienna and Paris opera houses. [www.opera-connection.com]