Act I. Paris, 1850.
At a party in the house of the courtesan Violetta ValÃ©ry, Gastone introduces Violetta to Alfredo Germont. He had enquired after her daily during a recent illnessâ€”more, Violetta teasingly points out, than her escort, Baron Douphol, did. When a toast is called for, the jealous baron refuses to lead it, so Alfredo obliges.
Violetta faints. She encourages her guests to proceed to the ballroom while she rests. Alfredo stays behind, confessing he has loved her for over a year. Violetta advises him to forget her, but agrees to see him again when the flower she has given him has faded.
When the guests depart, Violetta is surprised at how deeply Alfredo has affected her. She muses that he might be the one for her, but quickly dismisses such thoughts. She will devote herself to pleasure and always be free.
Act II, Scene 1. Several months later, in a house near Paris.
Violetta and Alfredo have been happily living together. He is stunned to learn from Violetta's maid, Annina, that Violetta is selling her possessions to meet their expenses. He leaves for Paris to raise money. An invitation arrives from Flora Bervoix, but Violetta puts it aside.
Violetta receives a visitor who turns out to be Alfredo's father. Germont accuses her of ruining his son. Violetta tells him that it is she who has financed their life together. Touched and embarrassed, he asks her for a sacrifice. Alfredo's sister is to be married, and the scandal of Alfredo's liaison jeopardizes the engagement. Germont asks Violetta to end the affair. With a broken heart, Violetta agrees, only asking him one day to let Alfredo know of her sacrifice.
Violetta writes a farewell letter. She hides it when Alfredo returns. He tells her that his father is expected. She encourages him to meet his father alone and leaves for Paris. Her letter is delivered. Alfredo despairs to learn that she is returning to her old life. His father attempts to comfort him. Alfredo finds Flora's invitation, though, and rushes off.
Act II, Scene 2. Flora Bervoix's party, Paris.
Alfredo arrives and heads to the gaming tables. Violetta enters with Baron Douphol, and upon seeing Alfredo, senses impending disaster. Alfredo, on a winning streak, insults her by announcing that he will take his winnings to the country to share with someone who deserted him. The baron challenges Alfredo at cards, and Alfredo continues to win.
Dinner is announced. Violetta stays behind to warn Alfredo of the baron's anger. He agrees to leave only if she will accompany him. Mindful of her promise, she allows Alfredo to believe she loves the baron. Furious, Alfredo hurls his winnings at her feet. The guests are stunned by the insult. Alfredo's father denounces his behavior, and the baron challenges Alfredo to a duel.
Act III. Violetta's apartment in Paris, some months later.
Violetta lies dying of consumption. Dr. Grenvil tells Annina that Violetta has only hours to live. Carnival revelers are heard in the street. Violetta asks Annina how much money is left, instructing her to distribute half to the poor. She rereads a letter from Germont: Alfredo and the baron fought their duel; the baron was wounded but is recovering; Alfredo fled abroad, but, told of her sacrifice, is returning.
Violetta cries out that it is too late and bids farewell to happy dreams. Annina brings news that Alfredo is back. He rushes in begging her forgiveness. Ecstatic, they ignore Violetta's condition, pledging a new life together. When Violetta swoons, Alfredo calls for the doctor, who enters with Germont. It is clear to everyone that she is dying. Violetta whispers that the pain has stopped. As she cries out with joy that her strength is reborn, she falls dead.
By Justin Moss