ELLSMORE, Caroline

MMus (Hons) University of New England 2010 Pages:

The siren subverted : the role of Violetta Valery in Giuseppe Verdi's 'La traviata' (1853)

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Abstract of paper for Graduate Conference 5-8. Nov 2008 "Perspectives in late nineteenth century music theatre: The role of Violetta Valery in Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” (1853)"

The tragic physical degeneration and death of a dissolute beauty, redeemed by love, has recently been represented by director, Baz Luhrmann, in his film “Moulin Rouge!” (2001). The subject of Luhrmann’s film, however, is one already present in the music and literature of the nineteenth century. Violetta Valery, in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, “La Traviata” (1853), was the forerunner of Luhrmann’s tragic character, Satine. After meeting Alfredo Germont, Violetta undergoes the beginning of a transformation from frenetic pleasure-seeker to noble, self-sacrificing lover. This paper examines Verdi’s musical portrayal of Violetta’s initial transformation in the solo finale to Act I, Ah, fors’e lui che l’anima. A performance of this pivotal number must capture the nuances of Alexandre Dumas’s descriptive novel, with yet more diverse and heightened means of expression than the spoken inflections of his play, on which the opera is based. While portraying the physical fragility of a consumptive, the singer must also perform a relentless succession of febrile vocal gymnastics in a high tessitura. A demonstration of sections of this music explores what, for an actor, might seem to be the “super –human” attributes needed to make the role not merely convincing, but compelling.

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