Giuseppe Verdi (10.10.1813 – 27.01.1901) was the major Italian musical dramatist of the nineteenth century, the successor to Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini. Along with Wagner, he was the most important opera composer of the period and received national and international recognition for his powerful stage works.
His most popular operas include Rigoletto (1851), based on a play by Hugo; Il trovatore (1853), based on a text by the Spaniard Gutiérrez; La traviata (1853), based on Dumas’s story of a courtesan’s love affair with a respectable young man; Aida (1871), a timeless story of love and betrayal against the backdrop of war and Otello (1874) an opera in four acts to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare’s play Othello. Amongst his non-operatic output Verdi’s Requiem stands out.
We have chosen to include La Traviata in our collection of masterworks although any of the above mentioned would not have been out of place in our collection.
Featuring one of the most iconic, romantic and tragic scores of all time, Verdi’s masterpiece contrasts spectacular party scenes with tender, intimate moments. La traviata tells the story of the tragic love between the courtesan Violetta and the romantic Alfredo Germont. The opera is played out against the hypocrisy of upper-class fashionable society and the love between Alfredo and Violetta threatens to shame his family. When Alfredo’s father directly appeals to Violetta to relinquish her one chance of happiness, Violetta submits and her act of self-sacrifice leads to her paying the ultimate price.
At iClassical we frequently return to the 1977 recording made by Carlos Kleiber with the Bavarian State Opera and Orchestra and a star-studded cast of soloists: Ileana Cotrubas (Violetta Valery), Stefania Malagu (Flora Bervoix), Helena Jungwirth (Annina), Placido Domingo (Alfredo Germont), Sherrill Milnes (Giorgio Germont), Walter Gullino (Gastone), Bruno Grella (Barone Douphol) Alfredo Giacomotti (Marchese d’Obigny), Giovanni Foiani (Dottore Grenvil), Walter Gullino (Giuseppe).
For those readers who would prefer to see, as well as hear, this opera our recommendation would be the DVD recording from the Royal Opera House Covent Garden conducted by the late Sir Georg Solti starring Angela Gheorghiu (Violetta) with Frank Lopardo (Alfredo), Leo Nucci (Giorgio Germont), Leah-Marian Jones (Flora), Gillian Knight (Annina), Robin Leggate (Gastone), Mark Beesley (Dottore Grenvil), Richard Van Allan (Baron Douphol), Roderick Earle (Marchese d’Obigny).