• La Traviata: Around the Opera (II)


    Fanny Salvini-Donatelli

    Italian soprano Fanny Salvini-Donatelli was the first Violetta, singing at La Fenice, Venice, the premiere of the opera, in 1853.

    It could be difficult to believe, but this first performance of La Traviata, was not a succes. Far from it, Verdi himself considered it "a fiasco" (a big failure).

    There is a tendency to consider that modern staging demands singers to have an appropriate physique du rôle, beyond (or even replacing) a good operatic voice. However, this strain between looks and singing is as old as Opera. Ms. Salvini-Donatelli was almost in her forties in 1853, and her weight in kilograms was well into the three digits.

    Verdi was not happy with the casting (he also had some reservations on the tenor and baritone), and he asked for a younger and better looking soprano, but to no avail. It seemed that the audience did not find Ms. Salvini-Donatelli a credible Violetta, even if her singing was highly praised by many, including Verdi himself, or Berlioz.

    Wathever the reason, the second staging of La Traviata, with another cast, and some alterations to the score, was a tremendous succes, repeated since then in every city and every opera house in the world.


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