La traviata in pop culture
What do Moulin Rouge, Pretty Woman and Verdi's La traviata have in common? If you love one of them, you will probably like them all! Few people know that both Pretty Woman and Moulin Rouge were inspired by Verdi's opera. Take a look at the similarities between the two films and see for yourself....
La traviata is a tragic opera by Verdi
In 1852, Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi visited the Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris for the world premiere of La Dame aux Camelias. The playwright, and author of the book from which it was based, Alexandre Dumas had been inspired by his relationship with the courtesan Marie Duplessis for the tragic story. A year later, inspired by Dumas' play, the premiere of Verdi's La traviata was staged at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice.
In Verdi's adaptation of the opera, Parisian courtesan Violetta is persuaded by her admirer Alfredo to leave her "glamorous" lifestyle behind. Later in the opera, after several months of living together, Alfredo's father manages to convince Violetta to leave the man she now truly loves in order to save her family from shame. Violetta flees to Paris, having made her ultimate sacrifice, and later dies (in the arms of her lover) of consumption.
In the 19th century, consumption was an incurable disease often associated with beautiful people. This was because consumption-or tuberculosis as we know it today-exalted characteristics that were associated with female beauty at the time, such as thinness and fair skin. The importance of consumption at the time Verdi wrote his opera made it an obvious contender for how Violetta meets her end. Puccini thought so too: even Mimi in La bohème dies of this "fashionable" disease.
If you like Moulin Rouge, you will love La traviata.
Although director Baz Luhrmann has stated that the inspiration for Moulin Rouge comes from the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, the ties to La traviata are obvious.
Luhrmann's protagonist Satine, like Violetta, is a courtesan, and the discreet coughing of blood suggests that she, too, suffers from consumption. As in the opera, Satine is tempted to leave behind her life as the star of Paris' Moulin Rouge for a chance at true love with the humble writer Christian. In both the opera and the film, there is a Duke who feels he should be with the heroine rather than her admirer.
No film based on Verdi's opera would be complete without a tragic ending. After finally declaring their love for each other, Satine dies in Christian's arms, succumbing to the secret illness she has been fighting against. Does this sound familiar? La traviata ends with Violetta dying in Alfredo's arms, just as his father finally gives his blessing for their union.
Did the plot of La traviata sound familiar? It was a major influence for Pretty Woman
A rich man and a courtesan embark on a love affair. A wealthy man and a courtesan embark on a whirlwind romance before he offers her a new life away from her stormy past. No, we are not talking about La traviata yet. This is the basic plot of Pretty Woman, another film inspired by Verdi's opera.
Both Violetta and Vivienne from Pretty Woman spend much of their new lives trying to fit in, defying the common stigma of their occupation. Vivienne is judged by the way she acts, looks and dresses, but she quickly adapts to the social norms of the Hollywood elite of the 1990s.
Have you ever wondered which opera Edward and Vivienne go to see together? It is La traviata! The story of a courtesan and her tragic affair reduces Vivienne to tears. Watch the clip below to hear the famous aria "Sempre Libera."
Although both La traviata and Moulin Rouge end in tragedy, Pretty Woman has a fairy tale happy ending! Edward and Vivienne initially decide that they can never live happily ever after, being from two different worlds, but they soon realize that they are in love and cannot live apart.