Wednesday 25 January 2012

La Traviata conundrum

Having recently reviewed a performance of La Traviata and now finding myself listening to a CD of it (the ica classics re-issue of the 1958 Callas performance from Covent Garden), I keep coming back to a couple of conundrums. Yes, I know that opera plots always need a bit of forgiveness, but some operas have lacunae in apparently well-put-together plots that make you wonder.

Take Giorgio Germont. At the end of Act 2, scene1, his son storms out and Giorgio works out where he is going by retrieving the invitation from Flora. The next time we see Giorgio it is at Flora's party. Now, what is he wearing?

Is he still wearing his street clothes? If he is, then he came straight to the party from Alfredo and Violetta's villa, so why did he get into the party which we have to assume is very smart. Would the door man have just let him in, without invitation and in a day suit? Did he have to kick up a fuss and what did he say? This is the option generally preferred by modern day directors and, after all, it means that you don't need a costume change for this character.

Otherwise, if he is in evening wear then does that mean he went back to his hotel room first? We have to assume that he'd taken a hotel in Paris, after all he's come up from the country to see Alfredo and Violetta. So, that means even though he came on a mission to convince his son's mistress to give him up, Giorgio brought his evening suit with him. Just in case; ever a man to be prepared for all occasions our Giorgio!

Now. Back to Act 2, scene and Alfredo this time. At the beginning of the scene Alfredo is shocked to learn from Anina that she is going into Paris to sell thing for Violetta so that they can keep going financially? Now, what do we learn from this.

That Alfredo is shocked that Violetta has been keeping him, in which case he must be thick and think that villas with staff grow on trees. Either that or he is so used to being kept on short reins by his father that he has no sense of money. Or Violetta has been deliberately hiding things, pretending that his allowance from his father is enough?

Or, he is shocked not that Violetta has been keeping him but that she is having to sell things. I.e. he is comfortable with being a kept man, but only if the woman is rich.

So what we come down to is that Alfredo is either thick or a cad and judging by his behaviour in the rest of the opera, I'm inclined to come down on the side of dim if not actually thick.


  1. LOVE this ! Great thinking, Robert ! Beczala has a theory is that Alfredo lived in a naive dreamworld and grew up fast when he realized it was illusion. Still doesn't explain Dad's suit.

  2. Dreamworld? Sorry, but I still think that the most likely explanation is that he's just thick.


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