Together at Last:
A Close Look at the Final Duet of Violetta and Alfredo in Act III
Texts and translations for the following tracks can be found here.
Opera offers so much sensory stimulation—music, text, sets, costumes, lighting—at any given moment that it makes it worth developing special perceptual skills. These, for instance, may include how to listen to two (or more) different musical lines at the same time. La Traviata offers an excellent opportunity to practice this skill, because in many of Verdi’s duets and ensembles, each vocal part not only has a distinct sound, but a distinct purpose. One prime example can be heard in the duet when Violetta agrees to Germont’s request that she leave Alfredo (See Scene E in the Classroom Activity). Another comes in the opera’s final scene, when Alfredo returns to a very sick Violetta. Text and translations can be found here.
CD 2, Track 1, the moment of Alfredo’s arrival, provides a starting point. Students will hear the excitement in the voices of the long-separated, long alienated lovers. They quickly exchange apologies, putting the past behind them. Then, with an easy-to-follow stepwise descent in key, the orchestra indicates the turning of their thoughts toward the future.
Track 2 introduces the gentle feelings that underlay the energetic opening, as Alfredo envisions a new, healthy future far from the corruption of the city.
In Track 3, Violetta embraces this vision, although in her rendition, Alfredo’s confidence is replaced by a wishful tone.
As if to provide encouragement, he joins her mid-verse in Track 4. Students will hear his long, flowing lines underlying Violetta’s more rhythmic effort to envision their happy future.
But Alfredo is sensitive to Violetta’s mood: In Track 5 he leaps in with an even stronger pulse as if to boost her spirits. Whenever Violetta regains strength, he resumes his supportive under-melody; when she weakens, he jumps in once more.
For a few moments in Track 6, the roles reverse for a few bars, Violetta’s singing winding gently beneath Alfredo’s rhythmic vision, until they meet and, at last, share a line in harmony.
Having come together in spirit, they end the duet together in Track 7.
To practice listening skills and to appreciate the progression in Verdi’s rhythms, dynamics, and melodies, students can listen to the entire duet in Track 8. They may enjoy offering their thoughts as to whether this composition realistically reflects the course of a conversation between two long-separated lovers or friends.