LA TRAVIATA - Madison Opera

LA TRAVIATA - Madison Opera

LA TRAVIATA - Madison Opera


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<strong>LA</strong> <strong>TRAVIATA</strong><br />

Student Matinee Guide<br />

2010-2011 Season<br />




BASED ON THE NOVEL <strong>LA</strong> DAME AUX CAMEI<strong>LA</strong>S<br />




I. What to Expect at the <strong>Opera</strong> 3<br />

II. Cast and Characters 4<br />

III. Story of the <strong>Opera</strong> 5<br />

IV. What to Listen For 7<br />

V. Biography of Verdi 9<br />

VI. Historical Context 11<br />

VII. Production Personnel 13<br />

VIII. Traviata WordFind! 15<br />

IX. POPera Connections 16<br />

X. Online Resources 17<br />

XI. Post-<strong>Opera</strong> Activity 18<br />

XII. Glossary of <strong>Opera</strong>tic Terms 19<br />

All material herein compiled and edited by Brian Hinrichs for <strong>Madison</strong> <strong>Opera</strong>.<br />



Welcome, from all of us at <strong>Madison</strong> <strong>Opera</strong>! We are thrilled you<br />

have decided to attend the Student Matinee.<br />

<strong>Opera</strong> combines elements of music, drama, visual art, and<br />

movement to tell a story on stage. The history of opera goes<br />

back to the Renaissance in Italy, and to this day it is<br />

considered the grandest of the performing arts.<br />

At the Student Matinee performance of Verdi‘s classic La Traviata (pronounced TRAH-VEE-AH-<br />

TA), you will see a full length, fully staged production during the opera‘s final dress rehearsal.<br />

Verdi is known for developing the Italian style of grand opera, which is characterized by large<br />

casts, stunning sets, beautiful costumes and high drama, all of which you will see on stage at<br />

<strong>Madison</strong> <strong>Opera</strong>. Our production will feature professional opera singers from around the world,<br />

including the U.S. debut of the Italian tenor Giuseppe Varano, in addition to the <strong>Madison</strong> <strong>Opera</strong><br />

Chorus and the <strong>Madison</strong> Symphony Orchestra. Before the performance, the cast will have been<br />

in rehearsal for a three week period in <strong>Madison</strong>, working closely with the stage director.<br />

<strong>Madison</strong> <strong>Opera</strong>‘s staging of La Traviata will be traditional, placing the action in the mid-19 th<br />

century in Paris. Our sets and costumes are grand and luxurious, giving the impression of<br />

flowing, rich fabrics and elegant visuals, all evocative of the time period. During intermission,<br />

we‘ll leave the curtain up so your students can get a sense of our backstage operation.<br />

Because La Traviata is sung in Italian, we will project translations of the text above the stage so<br />

you can understand every word. However, it is always helpful (and rewarding!) to study the<br />

opera ahead of time, so we hope you‘ll enjoy this guide to the fullest.<br />

Please review the following opera etiquette with your students:<br />

• Sit quietly in your seat, keeping shuffling and shifting to a minimum.<br />

• No talking during the performance, as it disturbs other audience members, the performers<br />

onstage, and it will cause one to miss important parts of the action. Intermission is the perfect<br />

time to discuss what you‘re seeing.<br />

• No food or drink is allowed in the theater.<br />

• Turn off all electronic devices. Take photos in the lobby, and save your texts for later!<br />

• Applaud to welcome the conductor when you see him enter the orchestra pit.<br />

• Show appreciation by applauding at the conclusion of a song (the orchestra will pause) and<br />

at the end of an act.<br />

• When the opera is over, you my also call out “Bravo!” to thank the performers for a job<br />

well done.<br />

• Find different things onstage or in the orchestra to focus on. Students will want to follow<br />

the action onstage and the progress of the story, but you may also suggest that they watch the<br />

orchestra and the conductor, or make a point to observe lighting, scenery, and costumes.<br />



Supporting roles:<br />

Violetta Valery: a courtesan in Paris, famous for being a carefree party girl<br />

>Performer: ELIZABETH CABALLERO, a Cuban-American soprano based in<br />

Miami and a rising opera star with credits at the Metropolitan <strong>Opera</strong><br />

Alfredo Germont: a nobleman from the country, in love with Violetta<br />

>Performer: GIUSEPPE VARANO, an Italian tenor who has performed across<br />

Europe, making his U.S. debut in <strong>Madison</strong><br />

Giorgio Germont: Alfredo‘s father, who disapproves of Violetta<br />

>Performer: DONNIE RAY ALBERT, a leading international baritone hailed for<br />

his “powerful voice” by the San Francisco Chronicle<br />

Flora: Violetta‘s friend and accomplice in Paris<br />

Annina: Violetta‘s maid<br />

Gastone: Alfredo‘s friend, a count<br />

Baron Douphol: an older man, Violetta‘s escort and current fling<br />

Grenvil: Violetta‘s doctor<br />



P<strong>LA</strong>CE:<br />

Paris and the surrounding area, around 1850<br />

SUMMARY:<br />

Violetta Valery is the toast of the town. Known as the go-to party girl in Paris, she has a<br />

reputation as an independent spirit, despite keeping the company of the wealthy Baron<br />

Douphol. But everything changes when Alfredo enters the picture. A quiet nobleman from the<br />

countryside, he has admired Violetta from afar and finally confesses his love. After resisting at<br />

first, Violetta soon gives in and abandons the life of freedom she thought she wanted. However,<br />

complications arise during the couple‘s carefree escape to the countryside when Alfredo‘s father<br />

expresses his disapproval of the relationship. What ensues is a heartbreaking tale of love<br />

broken and life unfulfilled, all set to some of Verdi‘s most memorable music.<br />


ACT I. The courtesan Violetta Valéry has been out<br />

most of the night running from party to party with a<br />

group of friends, who are now continuing the<br />

festivities in her Paris apartment. Flora, the Marquis,<br />

Gastone, and Violetta‘s ―boyfriend‖ the Baron<br />

Douphol are among the revelers, as is a new admirer<br />

of Violetta‘s, Alfredo Germont. Having long adored<br />

her from afar, Alfredo now flirts with Violetta in a<br />

rousing drinking song. As the guests move to<br />

another room of the house to hear an orchestra play,<br />

Violetta suffers a fainting spell. Quickly regaining her composure, she assures her friends that<br />

all she needs are a few minutes alone. Concerned, Alfredo returns and confesses his love.<br />

Violetta makes light of his declaration – she seeks pleasure, not love. But he persists, and she<br />

agrees to meet him the next day. After the guests depart, Violetta thinks more about her new<br />

suitor, wondering if Alfredo could be the man to change her life. But she quickly opts instead for<br />

continued freedom, as Alfredo‘s voice, heard outside, sings of the pleasures of romance.<br />

ACT II. Scene 1. For three months Alfredo and Violetta have been<br />

living blissfully in a country house near Paris. Alfredo reflects on their<br />

contentment (―De‘ miei bollenti spiriti‖). When their servant Annina<br />

reveals that Violetta has sold her possessions to keep the house,<br />

Alfredo hurries off to the city to settle matters at his own cost. Violetta<br />

enters and receives an invitation from Flora to a party that evening.<br />

She is soon surprised by the arrival of Alfredo‘s father, Giorgio<br />

Germont, who demands that Violetta break off her affair with his son;<br />

the scandal of their relationship has threatened Germont‘s daughter‘s<br />

engagement (―Pura siccome un angelo‖). Violetta says that she<br />


cannot, but she eventually gives in (―Dite alla giovine‖). Alone, the desolate woman sends a<br />

message of acceptance to Flora and starts writing a farewell note to Alfredo. He enters<br />

suddenly, and she can barely control herself as she reminds him of how deeply she loves him<br />

(―Amami, Alfredo‖) before rushing out. A servant brings Violetta‘s note to Alfredo as Germont<br />

returns to console his son and remind him of his loving family back home in Provence (―Di<br />

Provenza‖). But Alfredo, catching sight of Flora‘s invitation, suspects Violetta has left him for<br />

another lover. Furious, he resolves to confront her at the party.<br />

Scene 2. At her ―Spanish soirée‖ that evening, Flora<br />

learns from the Marquis that Violetta and Alfredo<br />

have separated, then clears the floor for hired<br />

entertainers—a band of fortune-telling gypsies and<br />

matadors (―E Piquillo un bel gagliardo‖). Before long,<br />

Alfredo strides in, making bitter comments about love<br />

and gambling recklessly at cards. Violetta arrives with<br />

Baron Douphol, who challenges Alfredo to a game<br />

and loses a small fortune to him. The crowd moves to<br />

another room for supper. Violetta has asked to speak with Alfredo privately. Fearful of the<br />

baron‘s anger, she wants Alfredo to leave, but he misunderstands her apprehension and<br />

demands that she admit she loves Douphol. Hurt by the accusation, she says that she does.<br />

Alfredo calls in the others, denounces his former love, and cruelly hurls his winnings at her feet<br />

(―Questa donna conoscete?‘‘). Violetta is distraught. Germont arrives in time to witness his son‘s<br />

rash act and denounces his behavior. The guests rebuke Alfredo, and Douphol challenges him<br />

to a duel.<br />

ACT III. In Violetta‘s bedroom six months later, Dr. Grenvil<br />

tells Annina that her mistress does not have long to live:<br />

she will soon die of tuberculosis. Alone, Violetta re-reads<br />

a letter from Germont saying the Baron was only<br />

wounded in his duel with Alfredo, who knows everything<br />

and is on his way to beg her pardon. But Violetta senses<br />

it is too late (―Addio, del passato‖). In a feverish daze, she<br />

hears street revelers celebrating Mardi Gras and believes<br />

them to be her old friends. As she rushes downstairs to<br />

join them, Annina stops her, announcing that Alfredo has arrived. Ecstatically, the lovers plan to<br />

leave Paris forever (―Parigi, o cara‖). Germont enters with the doctor, but Violetta says she feels<br />

her strength miraculously returning. But this surge of vitality lasts just a moment; she suddenly<br />

staggers and falls dead at her lover‘s feet.<br />

Courtesy of <strong>Opera</strong> News<br />



Verdi crafted his music to make the listener aware of certain elements of the plot. See if you can<br />

detect the following techniques as you watch and listen to La Traviata:<br />

> Reoccurring musical themes<br />

The first notes of the prelude, played before the curtain rises, establish the theme of Violetta‘s<br />

suffering from her illness, tuberculosis. This same theme is heard in the final act as Violetta<br />

nears death. In this same prelude a theme is introduced that portrays Violetta‘s love. This love<br />

theme is repeated in Act II when Violetta bids Alfredo goodbye.<br />

> Contrasting melodic lines played simultaneously<br />

Verdi illustrates the two very opposing life styles of La Traviata: The desperate, suffering and<br />

sad love story of Violetta, and the merry life of a Parisian courtesan. At the beginning of the<br />

opera super imposed over Violetta‘s love theme is a bright and witty melodic line that makes us<br />

think of parties and festivities- of people enjoying the good life. In the final act, as we hear the<br />

sad theme associated with Violetta‘s illness, counter-balanced is the music and singing heard in<br />

the streets outside of Violetta‘s apartment.<br />

> Familiar music<br />

So much of Verdi‘s music is used in popular commercials and as background music because<br />

you can easily sing or hum his thematic lines. Have you ever heard the music of the drinking<br />

song, ―Libiamo?‖ Can you hum the melody?<br />


This theme, and other Verdi has written, are so engaging that they have become recognizable<br />

by many people who are not all that familiar with the entire opera. The party scene in Act II with<br />

the gypsies and matadors is memorable for the bright and exuberant singing and the dancing in<br />

colorful costumes by the entire opera chorus. One of the most popular arias of La Traviata is<br />

known as ―Sempre Libera (Forever Free).‖ This aria is a musical form known as a ―cabaletta.‖ It<br />

is sprightly, fast, short in length and catches our attention. It makes us immediately aware of<br />

Violetta‘s interest in returning to her former merry life.<br />

> Theatrical devices<br />

When Violetta reads the farewell letter she has written to Alfredo, she ―speaks‖ the words. There<br />

is a musical background, but it serves to echo her feelings, rather than to accompany her voice.<br />

The technique employed here is called ―melodrama,‖ that is, a dramatic reading with a melodic<br />

background.<br />

> A superstar soprano<br />

In Act I when Violetta first discovers her love for Alfredo, Verdi writes a bold coloratura solo<br />

(coloratura sopranos have very strong voices, sing in the highest vocal range and specialize in<br />

florid runs and trills). At one point, the orchestra drops out and Violetta sings a ―cadenza‖ (a<br />

section of an aria that shows off the singer‘s virtuosity) by herself. Verdi wrote difficult parts for<br />

soprano singers. In La Traviata the coloratura singer is expected to push the limits of her vocal<br />

range, sing powerfully and, in addition, be an excellent actor to portray the difficult role of<br />

Violetta. The singing role is so difficult in the first act that Verdi gives the singer a little rest at the<br />

beginning of the second act while Giorgio Germont sings. In the rest of the opera, the soprano is<br />

required to sing dramatically. Coloratura sopranos are not usually required to be dramatic<br />

sopranos in the same opera, so the role of Violetta requires a virtual superstar to sing the part.<br />

Courtesy of Washington <strong>Opera</strong><br />


V. GIUSEPPE VERDI (1813 – 1901)<br />

Born in 1813 in the Italian village of Le Roncole near Busseto,<br />

Giuseppe Verdi spent his early years studying the organ. By the<br />

age of seven, he had become an organist at the church of San<br />

Michele Arcangelo. It was there that the young Verdi was an altar<br />

boy and, according to myth, his mother saved him from the<br />

French in 1814. In 1823, Verdi moved to Busseto where he<br />

attended music school and by the age of 13 was an assistant<br />

conductor of the Busseto orchestra. After finishing school, Verdi<br />

applied for admission to the Milan Conservatory. He was rejected<br />

for admission, although one of the examiners suggested that he<br />

"forget about the Conservatory and choose a maestro in the city"<br />

to study with. Verdi studied composition in Milan with Vincenzo<br />

Lavigna, a composer and the conductor at the famous opera<br />

theater La Scala. Verdi bounced back and forth between Milan and Busseto until he was named<br />

conductor of the Busseto Philharmonic in March 1836.<br />

By May 1836, Verdi married childhood sweetheart, Margherita Barezzi, who also happened to<br />

be the daughter of his greatest supporter. He returned to Milan several years later, this time with<br />

a young family. Verdi's first opera, Oberto, was brought to the stage at La Scala in November<br />

1839 and ran for multiple performances. The noted Ricordi firm published Oberto and, based<br />

upon his initial operatic effort, Verdi won a contract for three additional operas. He began work<br />

on his next opera, Un Giorno di Regno, but was interrupted when, one by one, his family fell ill.<br />

A little over the course of a year, Verdi lost his son, his daughter, and his beloved wife to illness.<br />

Unfortunately, Un Giorno was a complete failure.<br />

Verdi vowed never to compose another comedy and began to believe that everyone had a<br />

predetermined destiny, even if that meant death at a young age. Throughout this troubled<br />

period, the director at La Scala still believed in Verdi, and it was Verdi himself who later<br />

declared that with his next work, Nabucco, "my musical career really began." At dress<br />

rehearsals for Nabucco in the La Scala theater, carpenters making repairs to the house<br />

gradually stopped hammering and, seating themselves on scaffolding and ladders, listened with<br />

rapt attention to what the composer considered a lackluster chorus. At the close of the number<br />

(the famous Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) the workers pounded the woodwork with cries of<br />

"Bravo, bravo, viva il maestro!" The opening of Nabucco was a triumph. Verdi was famous,<br />

commanding a higher fee than any other composer of his time.<br />

I Lombardi followed Nabucco and won an unprecedented victory over Austrian censors. Verdi's<br />

triumph in retaining the libretto and melodic themes the censors had hoped to ban as "religious"<br />

in nature forged the composer's lifelong reputation as an ideological hero of the Italian people.<br />

This would be the first of his many battles with censors for artistic freedom.<br />


Over the next seven years, the composer penned ten additional operas of varied success,<br />

gradually making the transition between two distinct eras of Verdi composition. Initially captive<br />

of the "bel canto" style of Donizetti which focused almost solely on vocal purity and elegance,<br />

Verdi continually experimented to produce his own operatic genre in which drama was driven by<br />

melody and characters had an identifiable musical essence.<br />

In explaining his work Il Trovatore, Verdi said: "I think (if I'm not mistaken) that I have done well;<br />

but at any rate I have done it in the way that I felt it." In saying so, he defined his own creative<br />

hallmark. Although a musical genius, Verdi composed spontaneously from the heart. A brilliantly<br />

schooled musician, he placed emotional sensibility above intellect in all that he wrote. In the<br />

process, he created the remarkable marriage of dramatic characterization and vocal power, an<br />

indelible artistic signature.<br />

The creation of an operatic tour de force based upon his ingenious<br />

artistic formulation assured Verdi's immortality, beginning in 1851<br />

with Rigoletto, followed soon after by Il Trovatore, La Traviata, and<br />

ultimately in 1871, by Aida. Even without the masterpieces that<br />

followed - Simon Boccanegra, Un Ballo in Maschera, La Forza del<br />

Destino, and Don Carlos or his great Requiem Mass - the Maestro<br />

could have afforded to rest on his musical achievements and stand<br />

unchallenged as the premier operatic composer of any age. In fact,<br />

with the success of Aida, Verdi seemed to have abandoned<br />

composing altogether, producing no new works for fifteen years.<br />

Fortunately an electrifying libretto for Otello, created by poet Arrigo<br />

Boito, brought the composer out of his self-imposed retirement.<br />

The opening of Otello in February of 1887 attracted an<br />

international audience to Milan for a dramatic event which ended<br />

only after the citizenry had showered Verdi with gifts and applause<br />

throughout twenty curtain calls and towed his carriage to the hotel.<br />

Public festivities continued until dawn.<br />

In 1893, with the premiere of Falstaff, Verdi and his adoring audience repeated the entire<br />

sequence of events at La Scala - all in honor of a comedy he had vowed as a young man never<br />

to write. The maestro finally retreated to his country home in Sant' Agata with his second wife,<br />

singer Giuseppina Strepponi. They spent several peaceful years in retirement until her death in<br />

1897. His wife's death left Verdi in a state of unbearable grief. He immediately fled Sant' Agata<br />

for the Grand Hotel in Milan and, after four unhappy years, Verdi died in 1901, the victim of a<br />

massive stroke. Verdi's death left all Italy in mourning. He still is revered throughout the music<br />

world as the greatest of operatic composers and, more particularly, in Italy as a patriotic hero<br />

and champion of human rights.<br />

Courtesy of Arizona <strong>Opera</strong>.<br />



Verdi‘s life covered a period of great musical and political upheaval. When he was born, the<br />

classical period of Mozart and Haydn had already begun to pass, and the highly ornate bel<br />

canto operas of Bellini and Donizetti were enormously popular. Soon, the dramatically nuanced<br />

and musically full bodied Romantic style began to take over, varying greatly between France,<br />

Italy, and Germany, where Wagner‘s ―music dramas‖ were considered revolutionary. Politically,<br />

the 19 th century saw the unification of Italy in 1861 after a period of revolution that Verdi‘s opera<br />

Nabucco is said to have partly inspired. The following dates mark significant events in Verdi‘s<br />

life, in Italy, and around the world, from 1813 to 1901.<br />

1813: Giuseppe Verdi is born in Busseto, Italy, then part of the First French Empire, under the<br />

rule of Napoleon<br />

1814: Napoleon is defeated and is exiled to St. Elba<br />

1815: Napoleon escapes, but is defeated again at the Battle of Waterloo; Congress of Vienna<br />

restores Austrian rule to the Kingdom of Italy<br />

1823: The Monroe Doctrine declares that European powers must not colonize or interfere with<br />

independent nations in the Americas<br />

1827: Beethoven dies<br />

1831: Premiere of Norma, Bellini‘s most influential opera<br />

1836: Verdi marries first wife, his childhood sweetheart<br />

1838: Photography invented; Charles Dickens writes Oliver Twist<br />

1839: Verdi‘s first opera, Oberto, premieres at La Scala in Milan<br />

1842: Premiere of Verdi‘s Nabucco, in which the plight of the oppressed Jews was instantly<br />

compared to the plight of the Northern Italians under the Austrian Empire<br />

1843: Wagner‘s The Flying Dutchman premieres in Dresden<br />

1848: Revolution of 1848 in France results in the establishment of the Second French Republic,<br />

spreads revolutionary movements throughout Europe, including Italy; death of bel canto opera<br />

composer Gaetano Donizetti<br />


1853: Premiere of Verdi‘s La Traviata at La<br />

Fenice in Venice<br />

1858: Birth of composer Giacomo Puccini<br />

1859: War in Italy gradually removes<br />

Austrian rulers from northern states; Charles<br />

Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species<br />

1861: First Italian parliament is called, at<br />

peak of unification process, and Rome is<br />

declared the capitol of Italy; American Civil<br />

War– begins<br />

1866: Austria cedes rule of Venice to Italy<br />

1870: Rome is seized from the Pope by the<br />

Italian army, effectively ending the battle for<br />

Italian unification<br />

1871: Triumphant premiere of Verdi‘s Aida; end of the Franco-Prussian war<br />

1876: First complete performances of Wagner‘s Ring Cycle at Bayreuth<br />

1887: Premiere of Verdi‘s Otello, finally shows the influence of Wagner‘s style on the<br />

consummate Italian Verdi<br />

1896: Premiere of Puccini‘s La boheme represents changing of the guard in Italian opera; new<br />

style is more realistic, with through-composed music<br />

1901: Verdi dies in Milan<br />



Onstage....<br />

Backstage...<br />


creates clothes singers will<br />

wear on stage<br />


manipulates lights to create<br />

effects and set mood on stage<br />


operate lighting board and<br />

handle various electrical,<br />

audio, and effects jobs<br />


applies makeup and ensures<br />

artists look their part<br />


responsible for action<br />

on stage<br />


responsible for lighting and<br />

sound cues, entrances and<br />

exits of performers; makes<br />

sure the show keeps pace<br />


coaches singers and conducts<br />

orchestra and chorus<br />


designs scenery for the<br />

opera<br />


edits and mends costumes, fits<br />

artists, assited by dressers<br />


moves sets and props<br />

around stage<br />


makes sure props are<br />

placed accurately<br />



Mr. Bruce began his musical training as a choirboy at the Washington<br />

National Cathedral and later earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and<br />

Drama from Tufts University. Internships followed with Harold Prince for his<br />

1990 production of Faust at the Metropolitan <strong>Opera</strong>, and with Leonard<br />

Bernstein for his legendary performances and final recording of Candide.<br />

These early experiences led to his work on the directing staffs of the San<br />

Francisco, Houston Grand, Santa Fe, Dallas, Washington National, and San<br />

Diego <strong>Opera</strong>s - working under celebrated directors such as Francesca<br />

Zambello, Bruce Beresford, John Copley, Lotfi Mansouri, John Cox, Stephen Lawless and<br />

Nathaniel Merrill. Today, Garnett is based in Baltimore, Maryland and directs across the United<br />

States. He most recently has staged Don Giovanni at <strong>Opera</strong> Omaha, La Traviata at Austin Lyric<br />

<strong>Opera</strong>, and Tosca at the Lyric <strong>Opera</strong> of Chicago, earning wide critical acclaim.<br />


Maestro John DeMain is known in <strong>Madison</strong> for his roles as Artistic Director of<br />

<strong>Madison</strong> <strong>Opera</strong> and Music Director of the <strong>Madison</strong> Symphony Orchestra. He<br />

is also known internationally as the Tony and Grammy Award winning<br />

conductor of Gershwin‘s Porgy and Bess at the Houston Grand <strong>Opera</strong> and in<br />

New York. As the Music Director of Houston Grand <strong>Opera</strong> for 18 years, he<br />

led significant world premieres of works by John Adams, Leonard Bernstein,<br />

and Philip Glass. A native of Youngstown, Ohio, John DeMain began his<br />

career as a pianist and earned a Bachelor and Master's Degree in Music at<br />

the Juilliard School in New York City. In addition to his current duties in <strong>Madison</strong>, he has<br />

recently conducted at the Lyric <strong>Opera</strong> of Chicago, Vancouver <strong>Opera</strong>, and San Francisco <strong>Opera</strong>.<br />


The English designer Desmond Heeley has led a long and legendary<br />

career, beginning as an apprentice at the Shakespeare Memorial<br />

Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. His practical skills in costuming and<br />

painting was noticed by the director Peter Brook, who gave Heeley his<br />

first commission and later let him design sets for a famous production<br />

starting Sir Laurence Olivier. In 1968, he won 2 Tony Awards for his<br />

sets and costumes in Rosencrantz and Guilderstein are Dead on<br />

Broadway. Heeley is currently back on Broadway, with sets and<br />

costumes for the acclaimed revival of The Importance of Being Earnest.<br />

The designer created the sets and costumes for this production of La<br />

Traviata in 1993, and they offer all of his trademark touches. What appear to be rich and flowing<br />

draperies are in fact impressionistic paintings by Heeley himself. A child of the Depression, he<br />

has said his earliest influences were making arts and crafts with found objects. In La Traviata,<br />

he demonstrates his continued passion for found and recycled objects with a little known secret:<br />

the stunning chandeliers are in fact made of Dairy Queen spoons!<br />


VIII. <strong>TRAVIATA</strong> WordFind!<br />

Characters:<br />

F N V D Q N L G Z S Q V S I A D<br />

L A E U O Y I A K Z E O C S L C<br />

O A R E R F V S S S R T O I F A<br />

R R D T D S N T Q P U N L D R S<br />

A E I W O E E O A B T A O N E D<br />

R P U L E W R N S D R C R I D D<br />

X O B Q M X G E V F E L A R O O<br />

C A B A L E T T A K V E T B Q U<br />

M K N E P C Z U A Y O B U S J P<br />

E G J L P J S W T N P Y R O J H<br />

V A N N I N A T T O A D A M B O<br />

A Z O R T O V I E Z L F U K K L<br />

I L C S M H P L L H L Z T M W N<br />

P F E C Y V G I O R G I O N A F<br />

D W R K P H G K I A R I A G R S<br />

X J D S P B P D V L V Y Q B J Y<br />

Violetta, Alfredo, Giorgio, Flora, Annina, Gastone, Douphol, Grenvil<br />

Creators:<br />

Verdi, Piave, Dumas<br />

Terms:<br />

opera, overture, aria, duet, cabaletta, brindisi, bel canto, coloratura<br />



Movies influenced by <strong>LA</strong> <strong>TRAVIATA</strong><br />

>Pretty Woman (1990) – Director Garry Marshall has a soft spot for opera. In<br />

fact, he‘s directed operas for the stage before, and in Pretty Woman, he makes<br />

perfect use of La Traviata. The story of the movie parallel‘s that of La Traviata,<br />

with Julia Roberts as the Violetta character. In one famous scene, her ―Alfredo‖<br />

Richard Gere takes her to a performance of La Traviata at the San Francisco<br />

<strong>Opera</strong>, and it moves her to tears. Click to watch the scene online.<br />

>Moulin Rouge (2001) – In this epic Baz Luhrmann film starring Nicole<br />

Kidman and Ewan McGregor, La Traviata receives the full Hollywood<br />

treatment. Christian (McGregor) is a wannabe poet who defies his father to join<br />

the nightlife of Paris in 1899, where he falls for the glamorous dancer and<br />

party girl Satine (Kidman). Problem is, Satine is supposed to be an escort for<br />

an older, wealthier man, and she‘s secretly dealing with a fatal illness. Sound<br />

familiar? It‘s Verdi all over again!<br />

Commercials that use Verdi’s music from <strong>LA</strong> <strong>TRAVIATA</strong><br />

La Traviata contains some of the most popular music ever written to this day. Here are just a<br />

few advertisements that make use of it:<br />

>Huggies (uses ―Libiamo‖ from Act 1, Scene 1): Click to watch online.<br />

> Skittles (also uses ―Libiamo‖, and a singing rabbit): Click to watch online.<br />

> Heineken (uses ―Sempre Libera‖ from Act 1, Scene 1): Click to watch online.<br />

> Nissan (also uses ―Sempre Libera‖): Click to watch online.<br />

> EA Games (uses the ―Gypsy Chorus‖ from Act 2, Scene 2): Click to watch online.<br />

*A 2011 commerical by Bertolli also makes use of ―Libiamo‖!<br />



A Brief History of <strong>Opera</strong>:<br />

http://www.operaamerica.org/content/education/learningCenter/intro.aspx<br />

Score for La Traviata:<br />

> http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/bhr7293/index.html<br />

English translation of La Traviata:<br />

> http://www.dennisalbert.com/<strong>Opera</strong>/latraviata.htm<br />

Biography and Discography of Giuseppe Verdi:<br />

> http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2006/July06/Verdi_conspectus1.htm<br />

La Traviata samples:<br />

> Act I - ―Libiamo‖ - http://youtu.be/NcKdnkGBSgA<br />

> Act I - ―Sempre Libera‖ - http://youtu.be/I-AcsT9LRII<br />

> Act II.i - ―Lunga da Lei‖ - http://youtu.be/EWMTDFQad4k<br />

> Act II.i - ―Di Provenza il mar‖ - http://youtu.be/0saYfRBGBXY<br />

> Act II.ii - ―Gypsy and Matador Chorus‖- http://youtu.be/Tc-PjPf-uIE<br />

> Act III - ―Ah, Violetta (Finale)‖ - http://youtu.be/mg4204jQZqI<br />



What is beautiful or artful? Everyone has a different opinion, and there are many diverse ways<br />

to judge a work of art. The first performances of La Traviata were panned by critics, and yet<br />

today it is considered a masterpiece. After attending the Student Matinee, encourage your<br />

students to explore their feelings and opinions. The purpose of this activity is to get students to<br />

consider aesthetic judgments. Here are some topics for consideration:<br />

Topics to consider during the performance<br />

Execution – The quality of the musical performance by singers and orchestra;<br />

implementation of set and lighting changes by stage crew<br />

Interpretation – How the director translates the story to the stage<br />

Design – Sets and lighting choices to convey people and places<br />

Realism – How relatable and real the action feels<br />

Thematic – The ideas and message conveyed by the opera<br />

Expressionism – The emotional impact of the music and the acting<br />

Formalism – The structure and story arch of the opera; the balance of drama and music<br />

How to structure a review<br />

Students should include the name of the work being reviewed; where and when the<br />

reviewer attended the performance; names of the main performers, the director, the<br />

designers, and the conductor<br />

A description of what was seen.<br />

A judgment of what was seen. Was the performance good or bad and why.<br />

What are some things that can go wrong in the performance of an opera? Did they go<br />

wrong?<br />

Does the acting convey the expressive content of the words and music?<br />

Do the singers have voices that are pleasing to you? Explain for each of the main<br />

singers.<br />

Was the balance between the singers and orchestra appropriate? Remember that there<br />

may be a hundred performers in the orchestra, and they could easily drown out the<br />

singers.<br />

Describe the settings of the various scenes. Did they bring the story to life in the way the<br />

composer intended?<br />

Was the lighting appropriate?<br />

Would you recommend this production to others?<br />

<strong>Madison</strong> <strong>Opera</strong> would love to hear from your students. Please send any student reviews<br />

to: studentreviews@madisonopera.org<br />



aria: From the Italian work for "air." A song for a solo voice with instrumental accompaniment.<br />

adagio: A smooth, slow tempo.<br />

andante: A relaxed, walking tempo.<br />

apron: The front part of the stage between the orchestra pit and the curtain.<br />

ballad opera: Combines spoken dialogue with well-known vocal tunes and dances. Popular in England in<br />

early 18th century.<br />

baritone: The middle male voice, close to a French horn in range and tone color. In comic opera, the<br />

baritone is often the ringleader of the highjinks, but in tragic opera, he is usually the villain. The range is<br />

from G an octave and a half below middle C to G above.<br />

baroque: Baroque operas, popular from the early-1600s to the mid-1700s, are characterized by elaborate<br />

vocals and emotional, highly stylized and fanciful plots.<br />

bass baritone: A rare male voice, with a large range and a color between baritone and bass.<br />

bass: The lowest male voice, it is similar to a trombone or bassoon in range and color. Low voices<br />

usually suggest age and wisdom in a serious opera (basso profundo). In comedic opera, they are<br />

generally used for old characters who are foolish or laughable (basso buffo). The range<br />

basso buffo: A category of bass voice; a singer who specializes in comic characters.<br />

basso profundo: The most serious of the bass voices.<br />

bel canto: Meaning "beautiful singing," a fluid and lyrical vocal style popular in the mid-17th to mid-19th<br />

centuries. The singing takes precedence over the words or plot.<br />

bravo: Bravo! is the Italian word for expressing appreciation to a male performer.<br />

brava: Brava! is the Italian word for expressing appreciation to a female performer<br />

brindisi: a drinking song, usually sung by chorus and a staple of 19 th century operas<br />

cabaletta: a type of aria that is sprightly, fast, short in length and catches our attention, mastered by<br />

Verdi<br />

cadenza: A series of difficult, fast, high notes, sung at the end of an aria. Often improvised, singers use<br />

them to demonstrate their vocal abilities.<br />

camerata: A gathering of writers and musicians who met regularly, in the late 16th century, to discuss<br />

and experiment with art.<br />


cantata: Generally for chorus and soloists, a musical form based primarily on narrative text.<br />

casting: Casting is done principally according to voice type. Voice types are basically predetermined by a<br />

person‘s physical makeup. Singers can develop and stretch the instrument (the voice) with practice, and<br />

there is a certain amount of change in every voice as a person ages. However, we are each born with the<br />

voice mechanisms that we keep for the rest of our lives.<br />

castrato: A castrated male with a much-prized high singing voice.<br />

choreographer: The person who designs the movement of a dance<br />

chorus: members of the opera chorus. Choruses are used in most operas to provide vocal<br />

accompaniment to the principal singers, or they may have their own numbers. Many of them play parts<br />

such as townspeople, soldiers, etc.<br />

coda: The final idea presented in a musical composition.<br />

coloratura: A very high-pitched soprano with great vocal agility and high range, able to sing complicated<br />

vocal ornamentation (applicable to all vocal ranges). Lucia is sung by a coloratura soprano<br />

commedia dell'arte: Popular in Italy, plots revolve around disguises, mistaken identities, and<br />

misunderstanding..<br />

contralto: The lowest female voice, sometimes called alto. A true contralto is a very rare voice type,<br />

similar in range to a clarinet. It is usually reserved for an older female or special character parts such as<br />

witches and old gypsies. Its range is two octaves from F below middle C.<br />

counter tenor: The highest male voice, which was mainly used in oratorio and very early (baroque)<br />

opera.<br />

curtain call: Bows at the end of a performance<br />

designer: The person who creates the lighting, costumes or sets.<br />

deus ex machina: A staging or literary device referring to salvation from a tricky situation by a god or<br />

goddess.<br />

diaphragm: The muscle and connective tissue that separates the chest and abdominal cavity. A singer<br />

learns to make the diaphragm stretch to let the lungs fill completely with air. Then, tightens the diaphragm<br />

to push out the air at the desired volume and speed.<br />

director: The person who instructs the singer-actors in their movements on-stage and in the<br />

interpretation of their roles.<br />

diva: A female opera star. Translated into "goddess"; may imply a demanding or high-strung star.<br />

dramatic: Description used for the heaviest voice type, capable of sustained declamation and a great<br />

deal of power, even over the largest operatic orchestra of about 80 instruments.<br />


ensemble: Two or more people singing at the same time, or the music written for such a group.<br />

falsetto: The upper part of a voice in which the vocal cords do not vibrate fully, more often used in<br />

reference to male voices. Falsetto is frequently used by male characters when they are imitating females,<br />

but it should not be used only for comic effects. Some tenors have been able to integrate the falsetto into<br />

the rest of their voice, which makes for beautiful soft singing.<br />

finale: Usually involving a large number of cast members, the last song of an act.<br />

grand opera: <strong>Opera</strong> in the grand manner, signified by grandeur and size in cast, orchestra and sets. May<br />

be epic in scale and deal with weighty matters.<br />

heldentenor: Derived from the German prefix meaning heroic, this is used to describe a large voice with<br />

a brilliant range capable of performing the most demanding roles, usually used in reference to roles<br />

written by Richard Wagner.<br />

imbroglio: Chaos and confusion during an operatic scene, created by diversity of rhythm and melody.<br />

intermezzo: A short musical entertainment between acts.<br />

interlude: A short piece of instrumental music played between scenes or acts.<br />

leitmotiv: A musical theme used throughout an opera to identify a character or plot situation. Also called<br />

a ‗signature tune‘. It is identified with Wagner‘s operas in which the device was developed.<br />

libretto: Italian for "little book," the text accompanying the opera.<br />

lyric: Average-sized voice, neither extremely agile, nor especially dramatic.<br />

lyric spinto: Spinto literally means pushed, but understood as somewhat heavier than the true lyric.<br />

maestro: A courtesy title given conductors, composers, and directors. Italian for "Master."<br />

masque: A blending of music, poetry, song, and dance.<br />

mezzo soprano: Also called a mezzo, the middle female voice similar to an oboe in range. The mezzo<br />

sound is often darker and warmer than the soprano. In opera, composers generally use the mezzo voice<br />

to portray older women such as mothers, villainesses, seductive heroines, or in a few instances, a young<br />

girl. A special operatic convention is the use of the mezzo to play young men, called trouser roles or<br />

pants parts. The mezzo‘s normal range is from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above it.<br />

opera buffa: Comic opera, popular in late 18 th and early 19 th century. Opposite of opera seria.<br />

opera seria: A formal, serious opera, particularly prevalent in the 18th century.<br />

operetta: Light-hearted musical entertainment containing dance, spoken dialogue, and practical jokes. A<br />

musical.<br />


opera: A play that is sung. In opera, singing is the way characters express themselves. ‗<strong>Opera</strong>‘ is the<br />

Latin word for ‗opus‘. <strong>Opera</strong> involves many different arts; singing, acting, orchestral playing, scenic<br />

artistry, costume design, lighting, and dance. <strong>Opera</strong> is acted out on a stage with performers in costumes,<br />

wigs and make-up. Virtually all operatic characters sing their lines, although there are exceptions where a<br />

role in an opera will be spoken or performed in pantomime.<br />

opera comique: French form of opera in which spoken dialogue alternates with self-contained musical<br />

numbers. The earliest examples of opéra-comique were satiric comedies with interpolated songs, but the<br />

form later developed into serious musical drama distinguished from other opera only by its spoken<br />

dialogue.<br />

opus: A single work or composition.<br />

oratorio: A musical composition with religious, serious, or philosophical text for chorus, orchestra, and<br />

soloists.<br />

orchestra: The group of instrumentalists or musicians who, led by the conductor, accompany the singers.<br />

orchestration: The art of writing for the orchestra. Decisions about what instruments should play which<br />

parts of the music can affect the sound of a composition a great deal.<br />

overture: The instrumental introduction to the opera, usually containing excerpts of the opera's themes.<br />

prima donna: "First lady" or the female star of the opera.<br />

principal arists: Big stars in opera and are cast in the main roles; they are on stage for greater amounts<br />

of time and have the most solo work.<br />

prompter: Sitting in a small box under the stage's apron, a prompter gives singers and choristers their<br />

vocal cues and provides assistance for any on-stage memory lapses.<br />

range: Definitions of different human voices—bass, baritone, tenor, contralto, mezzo soprano, soprano.<br />

raked stage: A stage which slants upward away from the view of the audience.<br />

recitative: The sung words which often come before an aria or ensemble, usually acting as dialogue. The<br />

purpose of recitative is to advance the plot.<br />

romantic :The period of music roughly between the early to mid 1800's and the early 1900's.<br />

soprano: The highest female voice, with a sound similar to a flute in range. In opera, the soprano is most<br />

often the heroine, since a high bright voice traditionally suggests youth, innocence, and virtue. The<br />

normal range of a soprano is two octaves up from middle C, sometimes with extra top notes.<br />

soubrette: A soprano or mezzo of very light vocal weight and comparatively small range, generally cast<br />

as a young girl with a happy disposition.<br />

staccato: Characterized by short, clipped, rapid articulation.<br />

supernumeraries: The principal artists are the big stars in an opera, but opera would not be opera<br />

without the addition of a great many more people. One such group is the supernumeraries or ―supers.”<br />


The supernumeraries are the masses you see on stage. They do not sing or have speaking roles, but<br />

serve the very important purpose of making big crowd scenes believable. The supers must learn their<br />

blocking or stage positions when they are on stage. In some opera companies, they also must learn to do<br />

their own makeup, put on their own wigs and costumes, and be at all the rehearsals the director<br />

schedules for them. If you have an itching to get on the big stage, becoming a super may be just the<br />

ticket you are looking for!<br />

supporting artists: These singers have smaller, but still individual roles.<br />

tenor: Usually the highest male voice in opera. It is similar to a trumpet in range, tone, color, and<br />

acoustical ring. The tenor is usually the hero. Ranges from the C below middle C to the C above.<br />

tessitura: The average pitch of a piece. Tessitura encompasses all notes from the lowest to the highest.<br />

trill: Two rapidly and repeatedly alternated notes.<br />

trouser or pants role: A male character sung by a woman, usually a mezzo soprano.<br />

verismo: Italian word for ―realism,‖ a movement in Italian literature and music reflecting the naturalism or<br />

realism of a style made popular through the novels of Émile Zola. Stories tended to be about characters<br />

from the 'lower' social strata and the moral ambiguities that these characters face because of their<br />

position in society. Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci are perfect examples of Italian verismo operas.<br />

vibrato: The wavering tone added by a singer while sustaining a note.<br />


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