Opera Club #1.2 - La Traviata in 60 Seconds

If you’re just joining us, start at the first article in this series.

More Champagne, Please, I’m Dying

And now, on a high wire, without the benefit of a net, I will give you a brief summary of the plot of La Traviata. I am not referring to the libretto, and am just giving you my inaccurate internet summary of the plot in what I hope is a mildly entertaining form.

Before we begin, I will note that La Traviata is directly based off of Alexandre Dumas fils’ book (and later play) La dame aux camélias (The Lady of the Camellias), which was in turn a thinly-fictionalized account of the author’s affair-slash-crush on famed country-girl-turned-courtesan Marie Duplessis. In the 20th century, this tale has been retold any number of times, but most notably in Greta Garbo’s famous turn in Camille (1936) and, arguably, the 1990s hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold tale Pretty Woman.

ACT I

[There is a PARTY]

Violetta: Hey, everyone, let’s LIVE FOR PLEASURE and drink a lot.

Everyone: OK!

Friend: Hey, meet Alfredo, he really likes you.

Violetta: So does everyone else!

[People call for a toast. Someone suggests Alfredo.]

Alfredo: I’m shy.

Violetta: Give the toast for me, because I’d like that?

Alfredo: Va-va-voom! “Here’s to LIVING FOR PLEASURE.”

[Everyone DRINKS A LOT.]

[Violetta COUGHS. This indicates that she is secretly DYING.]

Everyone: You ok?

Violetta: No biggie.

Everyone: Cool.

Alfredo: Someone should take care of you. Like, say, hmmmmmmm mmmmmmmeeee?

[Violetta and Alfredo FLIRT HARMLESSLY until Alfredo CONFESSES HIS STALKY YEARLONG CRUSH.]

Violetta: You should forget me. I’m not really into true love. [But she is LYING.] Here, take this flower. We can go out when you return it.

Alfredo: How about tomorrow?

Violetta: OK.

[Alfredo LEAVES.]

Violetta: I must be crazy. I’ve got no time for love. I must be ALWAYS FREE so I can LIVE FOR PLEASURE.

ACT II, SCENE 1

[Violetta is no longer LIVING FOR PLEASURE and instead she and Alfredo are living at her house in the country, ROLLING AROUND ON THE FLOOR A LOT, as Violetta SPENDS DOWN HER CASH RESERVES.]

Alfredo: I’m going out for cigarettes, be right back.

[Alfredo LEAVES]

[Germont ENTERS]

Germont: Hi, I’m Alfredo’s dad, you brazen strumpet.

Violetta: What the hell, man? This is my house. Nobody talks to me that way here. Get lost.

[Germont is IMPRESSED by Violetta’s DIGNITY.]

Germont: OK, let me speak plainly. Everyone is scandalized by Alfredo sexing with you, and because of it his little sister’s engagement is at risk. You should leave him so that his family isn’t hurt.

Violetta: You don’t understand what you’re asking. I’m literally dying.

Germont: Pleeeease?

Violetta: Well, ok. But I don’t know how to break up with him.

Germont: Change your Facebook status to “It’s Complicated?”

Violetta: He’d think I was joking.

Germont: Just text him.

Violetta: Good idea.

Germont: Cry, cry, oh miserable one. I am so moved by your sacrifice. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not moved enough to withdraw my totally unreasonable request, but I’m seriously super impressed.

[Germont LEAVES]

[Alfredo ENTERS]

Violetta: Love me, Alfredo. Love me as I now love you. Farewell, Love!

[Violetta EXITS while TYPING ALFREDO A TEXT MESSAGE breaking up with him.]

Alfredo: Weird.

ACT II, SCENE 2

[There is a PARTY with politically incorrect DANCERS. Violetta is there and so is Alfredo. Alfredo is DRUNK and BITTER and GAMBLING and WINNING.]

Alfredo: I still love you. Also I hate you. And I love you. And I hate you. And I want my records back.

Violetta: Please stop.

Alfredo: Everyone, this woman spent money on me. And now I want you all to witness that I have repaid her!

[Alfredo THROWS MONEY in Violetta’s face, humiliating her. Everyone at the party is UNCOMFORTABLE.]

Germont: Hi, just passing through and stopped at this party where I happened to see you reacting badly to the disaster I architected and wanted to tell you that I’m ashamed to call you my son.

Alfredo: I’m sad!

Violetta: You’ll never understand.

ACT III

[Violetta is DYING and it TAKES A LONG TIME. Before her death (barely) Alfredo comes back and APOLOGIZES and Germont feels GUILTY.]

Violetta: Wait, actually, I’m feeling better now.

[Violetta DIES. Everyone in the audience is CRYING because the music totally SELLS IT.]

THE END

Next time: We finally start talking about the music.