La Traviata in Pop Culture

MN Opera’s La Traviata opens May 4 at the Ordway! Worried you don’t know the story? Well, we’re here to help. La Traviata has captured audiences’ imaginations for over a century, and has shown up in the darndest of places, serving as the inspiration for many other books, movies, and musicals. Here’s a quick look at some recent adaptations of Verdi’s legendary story.

The cast of MN Opera’s 2019 ‘La Traviata’ © Brent Dundore at Spoon and Stable


Let’s start with the basics:

In 1852, Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi visited Paris to catch the premiere of Alexandre Dumas’ new play La Dame aux Camelias. Apparently, he was so taken with the tragic story, inspired by Dumas’ real-life affair with a glamorous courtesan named Marie Duplessis, that one year later La Traviata (or “The Fallen Woman”) made its debut at the La Fenice opera house in Venice. Since then, it has become the most performed opera in the world!

Verdi’s La Traviata tells the tale of the fabulous Violetta Valéry, a beautiful Parisian courtesan who trades in her extravagant lifestyle of constant parties and champagne for a quiet life in the countryside with her wide-eyed admirer, Alfredo. After a few months, admiration blossoms into true love, which of course is exactly when his father decides to stop by and convinces her to leave her new love to save his family from shame. Violetta heads back to Paris with a heartbroken Alfredo secretly in tow, and having made her ultimate sacrifice, (spoiler alert) she succumbs to the consumption she’s been keeping secret all along and dies gorgeously in his arms.

© Richard Termine for The Glimmerglass Opera


Sound familiar?

Even though director Baz Luhrmann has said that the inspiration for his colorful jukebox musical, Moulin Rouge!, was the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice… We know better. Come on, Baz! It’s La Traviata!

Think about it: Ewan McGregor is Christian, a starry-eyed Romantic (with a capital R), who moves to Paris, and immediately falls desperately in love with a glamorous, sparkly showgirl played by Nicole Kidman. Her wealthy patron registers his disapproval (with a gun), so to save him, she breaks Christian’s heart. In the end, however, her true intentions are revealed, and she gorgeously dies of the secret disease she’s been battling. So basically if you were to take out the Elton John ballads and the David Bowie covers, you’d get… La Traviata!



But that’s not all!

Guess the story: A wealthy man meets a vivacious lady of the evening. They embark on a whirlwind romance before he offers her a safe and comfortable life away from her turbulent past in the big city. If you said, Pretty Woman, the classic 90s romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, you would be correct. But if you said La Traviata, guess what! You’d also be correct. (Although, I suppose Julia and Richard’s happy ending is ever so slightly different than Violetta and Alfredo’s.)

What’s more? The opera they go see together in Pretty Woman? I’ll give you one guess…



Don’t miss out when Verdi’s tragic romance, La Traviata, hits the Ordway stage for 8 performances, May 4-19. Get your tickets today at

*May 4 and 12 performances are nearly sold out. Best seats and prices on May 1419. Check availability frequently as it changes often.

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