The activities in this guide address several aspects of La Traviata:
the social relations and expectations at the heart of the opera
Verdi’s use of music to convey the inner lives of characters
the relationship of structure and story in this work
the production as a unified work of art, involving creative decisions by the artists of the Metropolitan Opera
The guide is intended to cultivate students’ interest in La Traviata whether or not they have any prior acquaintance with opera. It includes activities for students with a wide range of musical backgrounds, seeking to encourage them to think about opera—and the performing arts in general—as a medium of entertainment and as creative expression.
Social Networking: Similarities and Differences in Social Behavior Across the Centuries
The story of La Traviata is closer to the lives and emotional experience of contemporary young people than might meet the eye—particularly in Willy Decker’s Met production. His interpretation fast-forwards the opera’s setting from the 19th century into a socially sophisticated, timeless, modern present. It’s a world where it wouldn’t be surprising to see party-goers step aside to text their whereabouts to a friend or to check their smartphones for status updates.
The familiarity with the “social network” seen in this La Traviata and the timelessness of the emotions that flow through it will enable students to more fully appreciate the art and craftsmanship with which Verdi, Piave, and the artists of the Metropolitan Opera bring this world to life. In this spirit, the Classroom Activity invites students into the lives of Violetta and Alfredo, observing, “texting,” and “posting” on the characters’ relationship. They will:
follow the trajectory of a fictional relationship in discrete steps, attending closely to the musical and literary elements of each scene
collect behavioral observations—from the opera—as evidence of mores in a particular social setting
interpret observational evidence in terms of continuity and change in human experience
discuss the observed behaviors in their own language, through the contemporary communication forms of texting and posting to online social networks
apply their findings to assess social change and continuity