In a salon in Paris in the late summer of 1850, the courtesan Violetta is holding a lavish party. Alfredo Germont, a fervent admirer, is soon introduced. He is concerned for her failing health, which is more than can be said for her escort, Baron Douphol. As the guests move to the ballroom Alfredo declares his love, urging her also to abandon her current tempestuous lifestyle. The assembled guests return and depart, leaving Violetta to ponder Alfredo's tantalising offer.
Act II, Scene I
It is early the following year and Alfredo and Violetta have been living together for some time in an isolated country house. Both are deliriously happy yet Alfredo soon learns that Violetta is having to sell off her possessions in order to maintain them, prompting him to hurry off to rearrange his own affairs. Violetta receives an unexpected visitor - it is Alfredo's father, who dispassionately urges her to leave his son for the sake of a younger daughter whose future is being threatened by her brother's liaison. The tormented Violetta dismisses his pleas but is soon won over. She will "force" Alfredo to abandon her by going back to the Baron. She has written notes to both men when Alfredo himself returns. Violetta makes a hasty excuse to him and departs. A moment later the letter is delivered, telling Alfredo the awesome truth. The lingering Germont Senior attempts to comfort his son, but Alfredo is already bent on revenge.
Act II, Scene II
The hostess Flora Bervoix's ball that same evening is in full swing. Alfredo enters affecting indifference, and playing cards. He is soon followed by Violetta and the Baron. The guests are summoned to dinner and Violetta and Alfredo are allowed a moment alone. Violetta says that Douphol is seeking a duel; Alfredo begs her to return to him; she refuses and he hurtles his gambling winnings at her feet in repayment for the monies she has given him. The guests are appalled. Germont Senior arrives and Douphol issues his challenge.
In her bedroom at night, despite encouraging words from her Doctor, Violetta knows she only has hours to live. Alfredo has fought his duel and fled abroad but, told of her sacrifice, is hurrying back to Paris and Violetta to make amends. On his return, the lover's dream briefly of happiness but Violetta soon collapses. A contrite Germont Senior can do little and Violetta dies.
Copyright 2002 Duncan Hadfield