Premiered at Teatro la Fenice in Venice on March 6, 1853.
Composed by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto written by Francesco Maria Piave
Based on the book La Dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas
A salon in Violetta's house
Violetta, a beautiful and wealthy woman, lives alone in luxury. The story begins at her home during a grand party. The guests are drinking and singing when Violetta suddenly feels ill. She slips into a room to rest.
Alfredo, who follows Violetta into the room, has admired her from afar for months. He professes his love for her. Violetta gives him a flower, telling him to return it when it has withered.
Alone, Violetta thinks about Alfredo and their feelings for each other. She then discards the notion, deciding that she was meant to live a life of freedom and pleasure. The sound of Alfredo's voice outside, however, suggests a different path.
Violetta's country home
Violetta and Alfredo have enjoyed three months together. Alfredo learns from Annina, the maid, that Violetta is selling off her possessions in order afford their lifestyle.
Alfredo resolves to raise the money himself remorseful that he did not realize her financial situation. He rushes off to Paris to remedy the situation. He instructs the maid to tell Violetta he has gone but not to tell her why.
While waiting for a businessman to call on her, Violetta finds an invitation to a ball at Flora’s house and is visited by Alfredo’s father, Germont. He tells her that Alfredo’s sister is engaged to be married. But Alfredo’s affair with Violetta has put a stain on his family name. Their relationship will ruin his daughter’s chances of getting married.
Violetta tells Germont that she is ill and that Alfredo brings her joy in her last days. Germont insists on their separation to which Violetta finally agrees. She only asks that when she is gone that Germont tell Alfredo the real reason why she left him.
When Germont leaves, Violetta asks Annina to deliver a note accepting the invitation to the ball. As she begins to compose another note, this time to Alfredo, he walks into the room. Violetta renews her vow of love for Alfredo before she rushes away.
Alfredo receives Violetta's letter saying that she is leaving him. Germont returns to comfort his son.
Alfredo finds the invitation for the ball at Flora’s house. He believes that Violetta has left to attend the party. He decides to go to the party to confront her.
A salon at Flora's house
The party is in full swing with singing and dancing by gypsies and men dressed as matadors. Violetta has arrived with the Baron.
Alfredo is playing a game of cards at which he is winning and making sarcastic remarks about love. The Baron, with his pride at stake, decides to play against Alfredo. When the Baron loses, he vows to get back at Alfredo.
Alfredo meets Violetta alone in a separate room upon her request. She pleads with him to leave to avoid being harmed by the Baron. He agrees on the condition that she accompany him. She says that she cannot and adds, insincerely, that she loves the Baron.
Alfredo, after calling in all of the guests, throws his winnings at Violetta. He announces to them that he has paid her for her services, meaning their time together.
Germont rebukes his son and the guests shout insults at him for shaming a noble woman. The Baron challenges Alfredo to a duel.
Violetta has only a few hours to live. She reads a letter from Germont explaining that Alfredo survived the duel and now knows of her sacrifice. He is coming to be by her side. Violetta, realizing that there is no hope, prays for forgiveness.
Alfredo arrives and they embrace. He asks for forgiveness and lays out plans for their new life together.
Germont also appears with Annina and the doctor. After she and Alfredo exchange a few more words, Violetta rises with a sense of elation and life flowing through her. She then collapses.