My friend Pete, heartbroken, told me a story of opera and how he lost his friend who he loved. I found it so moving that I asked if I could write it here. He agreed.
His friend, Emerson, was very ill and would soon pass away. Pete was at home and wanted to do something to remember Emerson. He remembered that Emerson had gone to Vienna, where he saw his last opera, La Traviata. He looked through his music archives, found it and put it on. He realised that he didn’t know much about the story, so he read about it.
As Pete told me this, I also realised that I didn’t know much about La Traviata, so I also read about it. Here is the story, in a summarised version.
The story of La Traviata, by Guiseppe Verdi, begins when Violetta, a courtesan, throws a party to celebrate her recovery from an illness. One of her friends, a Count, brings his friend, Alfredo, who has long secretly admired Violetta. At that time Violetta has another lover, a Baron. But something in Alfredo strikes her interest and she agrees let him visit her again. Violetta wonders if Alfredo could be the love of her life.
After months pass, Alfredo does become the love of her life. They live happily in the countryside outside of Paris. She sells all her horses and carriages to support her countryside life.
Alfredo’s father demands that she breaks her relationship with Alfredo, because he reputation threatens his daughter’s engagement. She responds that she cannot. However in the end she sacrifices herself and ends the relationship. Alfredo thinks the Baron is behind all this and that Violetta loves the Baron once again.
Violetta is once again grave with her illness, tuberculosis. She receives a letter from Alfredo’s father telling him that he informed his son of her sacrifice for his sister. He writes that he is sending Alfredo to her to ask of her forgiveness.
Alfredo arrives. But it is too late as her time is up. The opera ends with a final aria by Violetta on her deathbed. She sings: Farewell happy dreams of the past – now it is all over.
Pete told me that as the week wore on he knew Emerson was getting worse. He rang a friend who lived close-by to E and asked her to please play La Traviata for Emerson. Two and a half hours later, she rang Pete back, voice quavering. She had put on La Traviata. A voice or something told her to put on the third act, so she did. Emerson took three short breaths and passed away during the final aria.
We do not think this was a coincidence. This was a final act of beauty.
Thank you for reading.
Note: image taken from Wikipedia.