There is the Violetta of Act One, flirtatious, generous with her favours, an indefatigable hostess but for the consumption that is slowly eating away at her. Act Two Violetta is a home-maker, settled in the country with Alfredo, and dignified when confronted by his scandalised father. Finally, Violetta in Act Three is a stricken invalid, wishing for Alfredo's future happiness with another.
Now, 25 years after this much-loved production by Richard Eyre was first seen at Covent Garden, five sopranos in turn give their interpretations of this many-layered character, most recently sung by Ermonela Jaho. At the rapturous curtain calls Jaho staggered back to real life as if from an abyss.
Violetta (Ermonela Jaho) and Alfredo (Charles Castronovo) in La Traviata at Covent Garden, earlier this year. Photo: Catherine Ashmore
In Bob Crowley's lavish design, the opera opens in the plush golden salon where Violetta entertains until dawn. When Violetta is won over by faithful Alfredo, the couple move out of Paris. Fabric samples and unhung pictures suggest a life slowed down, stripped of high society's competitiveness and perfectionism. Here Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont, begs her to end the relationship that blights his daughter's chance of marrying.
After a row and a disastrous evening in the dizzying glamour of the casino to which she returns, the dying Violetta is, finally, all but alone in a vast room where the louvred shutters flicker with the giant silhouettes of revellers outside as she slips out of life.
The many casts over the celebratory three-month run, under a succession of conductors, include baritone Simon Keenlyside as Giorgio Germont.
Often music-lovers ask where to start with opera, or where to take a newcomer. This La Traviata fits the bill, and also has fresh ideas for those who already know their way around.
La Traviata is sung in Italian with English surtitles. Performances are at regular intervals, 17 Dec to 23 March. Booking for winter dates opens 9AM, Thur 24 Oct
|What||La Traviata, Royal Opera House|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
17 Dec 19 – 23 Mar 20, 21 performances, times vary
|Website||Click here for further information and booking|