"La Traviata" is an opera based on a novel, which Verdi wanted to stage to make modern (Bonds 2013). This was moving towards the "realistic" elements rather than mythological elements found in Classical operas (Robbins 2011). The opera is immensely popular in modern times, regular performed in opera seasons across the globe.
One of the primary characteristics of this work that stays true to a Romantic opera is its plot. In this opera, like other Romantic operas, one may see a departure from the mythological topics and a move towards the realistic using the "folk" people as characters rather than gods. Musically, throughout the opera, there is a departure from Classical forms, with new, innovative forms that do not follow a set mold. From the very beginning, it is possible to hear the added emphasis on emotion in music. Tension and release is extremely prevalent, created through the use of consonance and dissonance. In order to allow the text and music to read emotionally, a key area is less established than in the Classical era, wandering around amongst keys. More rubato is used in the long sung melodies. Dynamics and large shifts are regularly used throughout to emphasize the dramatic, common in the mid Romantic era. Regular use of accidentals is also seen and is common to the mid Romantic era, a clear sign of wandering key areas.
Compared to another mid Romantic work, Smetana's "Trio," many similarities exist, even between these two differing genres. In topic, both show a concern with realistic topics and are not afraid to tackle difficult subjects. Subject choices were commonly politically motivated in the mid Romantic period (Robbins 2011). Both pieces have many accidentals, using chromatisicm and sequences both heavily. Forms are less clear in comparison to Classical music and both composers experiment with tonality. On another note, both are politically motivated from a nationalistic standpoint.
"La Traviata" was an interesting work for me to study as someone who is not a vocalist. Having presented on Gluck and the reform operas in the early Classical period, it was easier for me to see the differences between Classical and Romantic operas. Musically, I think the piece is very interesting to listen to.
"Verdi- La Traviata- Fleming, Villazón, Bruson." YouTube video, 2:20:31. Posted by "lavozporeexcelencia.com," upload September 26, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uho5gdcLpE
Mark Evans Bonds. A History of Music in Western Culture. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall, 2013.
G. Ricordi (Editor). La Traviata. Creative Commons Attribution. http://imslp.org/wiki/La_traviata_(Verdi,_Giuseppe)
Allison Robbins. (2011, March) Romantic Period. Musicology 220. Lecture conducted from University of Tennessee, Knoxville.