“La Traviata” – Reflecting on the Limits Placed on Women in Centuries Past

Photo by Dan Norman.

La Traviata, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera with libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, tells the story of Violetta, a woman who falls in love with a man but finds her past is a barrier to future happiness. At Minnesota Opera Cecilia Violetta Lopez plays the role. Director Louisa Muller says, “While an audience today is unlikely to find a so-called ‘fallen woman’ acting with great strength and character and moral integrity as shocking as Verdi’s audience did, we are no less in need of this story.”

Photo by Dan Norman.

Muller’s comments are wise and refreshing. Theater, opera, and film are excellent conduits for recreating and reminding us of the human legacy. The idea of removing classic work because it doesn’t suit today’s protocols is tantamount to erasing history. Minnesota Opera’s La Traviata shows how we can return to classic work as a way to educate and illuminate us in our understanding of the past in such a way that we don’t backslide to those areas that degrade human dignity, as well as recovering certain values that could perhaps once again serve us well. For example, gender roles in classical opera, Film Noir, and Broadway musicals predating Jonathan Larson may rub us the wrong way if we let them. But there is so much more to gain by absorbing the excellence of their craft and contemplating how that which may trigger our present day sensibilities, reflects where our species has been and in some cases, still is.

Photo by Dan Norman.

La Traviata 
Through May 19
Ordway Music Theater, 345 Washington St., St. Paul
612-333-6669
mnopera.org

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