Verdi's most popular opera was based on the contemporary and semi-autobiographical story THE LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS by Alexandre Dumas.
It depicts the short and hectic life and tragic death of a high-society courtesan in 19th century Paris, and contrasts her self-sacrifice with the hypocritical bourgeois society that abused and then rejected her. Verdi responded personally to the material through music of profound humanity and a psychological portrayal of the characters and their feelings. Behind the outward show of luxury and frivolous pleasure, the ‘populous desert they call Paris’ hides the stark cruelty of a social class for whom everything can be bought and sold. Against this backdrop of bitter transience, Violetta emerges as a classic heroine, whose sacrifice transcends love and death.
These two themes around which the opera revolves are brought to life by the staging of David McVicar, who, with his usual elegance, sets the drama in a world of romantic references while retaining an up-to-date perspective.