Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata, to the libretto based on Alexandre Dumas’s novel La Dame aux camélias, about Marie Duplessis, the famous courtesan and idol of Parisian society in the 1840s, is actually the very first major opera treating a contemporary social theme. The work’s premiere in 1863 in Venice was a flop: the audience was appalled that the lead role had been assigned to a courtesan who, what’s more, was portrayed in a positive light. Yet Verdi’s opera soon started garnering plaudits and is now one of the most popular repertoire titles the world over.
La traviata has been staged at the venue that today houses the State Opera since the very beginning of its existence, when the New German Theatre took over the production from the German Estates Theatre. The opera primarily afforded the opportunity to host celebrated foreign singers, including the legendary Australian soprano Nellie Melba (18 April 1900). The most recent production was undertaken in 2006 by a foreign team headed by the French stage director Arnaud Bernard, with the music being explored by the Italian conductor Enrico Dovico.