In winter 1852 Giuseppe Verdi was in Paris. Here, at the Théâtre du Vaudeville, he witnessed one of the first representations of the Dame aux camelias, the theatrical adaptation of the novel by Alexandre Dumas fils. The drama of the courtesan Marguerite Gautier, modeled on the real Marie Duplessis, who challenge the bourgeois conventions and seeks redemption in the love of Armand, profoundly affected the composer. The subject of the new work was quickly decided and on March 6, 1853 at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice Verdi staged La Traviata. But censorship could not tolerate such a harsh realism and required Verdi to backdate the story in a more reassuring “about 1700.” Perhaps it is for this reason that the first representation turned into a fiasco. As Verdi himself wrote, complaining on this edulcorations: “They have made Traviata pure and innocent. Thank you very much! A whore should always be a whore. If the sun was shining in the night, there would be no more night!”

La traviata
Opera in three acts
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, from drama La dame aux camélias, by Alexandre Dumas fils
Music by Giuseppe Verdi