The plot of the ballet La dame aux camélias is taken from the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas fils. The time is the 19th century and the place is Paris.
Act I takes place in the house of Marguerite Gautier – the most charming and desired courtesan in Paris. She suffers from tuberculosis and the incurable disease has left the mark of doom in her thoughts. After a long period of illness, Marguerite makes a big reception on the occasion of her return to the society. Active social parties infatuate her helping her forget about her fatal illness. She enjoys every single moment of her short-lived life. In the heat of the ball, to her introduces himself Armand Duval – a young man from the province studying in Paris and long fallen in love with her from a distance. He amuses her with his youthful naivety by offering her love instead of luxury, but at the same time he fascinates her with his burst of touching admiration and ardent passion. This starts engaging her while growing into a feeling unknown to her up to that moment. Surprisingly, she is visited by Comte de Giray – her patron. Seeing the traces of the splendid ball he is scandalized by her imprudence. She, however, starts caressing him with a disarming femininity and even succeeds to persuade him to support her with new donations.
Act II transports us in the garden of a villa in the environs of Paris. Marguerite has taken Armand with her. They enjoy their shared love far away from the past and from the vanity of the big city. Thanks to the generous support of Comte de Giray, Marguerite has organized the marriage of her friend Nichette with Gustave. All her Paris friends have come to the villa party. Unexpectedly, in Armand’s absence appears Comte de Giray. Marguerite cannot hide her lover from him. In a fit of irritation and jealousy, the count leaves her taking away with him all his presents. Marguerite is shocked. And exactly when she is most desperate and confused, Georges Duval – Armand’s father – visits her. He accuses her unjustly that she was bringing her son to ruins with her luxury. In spite of her assurance that she finances their mutual life, the puritan from the country requests that she leaves Armand in the name of his future career. He persuades her that her status of courtesan is discrediting his son, as well as his entire decent family, in the eyes of society. In the dialogue between them, the father has unexpectedly discovered the power of her feelings for Armand and the nobility of her soul; he has understood that Marguerite’s unusual outer beauty is a reflection of her even more unusual inner beauty. He falls into a strong mental torment, but he overcomes it with his will in order to force from her the promise for which he has come – to leave his son. She promises in the name of her deep love, but at the price of her broken heart. Marguerite leaves a letter for Armand assuring him that he was the love of her life, but she had to leave him. When Armand comes back, Marguerite goes away in a hurry and the letter breaks his heart too.
Act III takes place again in Paris. On the night streets of Paris, Armand is desperately looking for Marguerite among her acquaintances hoping to meet her. This does happen, but she fast escapes from him. In the next scene, the action takes place in the ballroom of the courtesan Olympe. Here is the entire night Paris with all Bohemians and with Baron de Varville in the heat of the dances. Marguerite is again with Comte de Giray. Armand tries desperately to attract her attention. Indulging into an absolute lack of restraint, he provokes her to start a conversation, but, although attesting her grand passion for him, she remains discrete about the reason of their parting. Losing his balance and with a hurt ego, Armand demonstratively throws a wad of banknotes over her as if she was a woman of easy virtue. Marguerite leaves the room. Duval-father who was secretly following every step of his son reacts angrily against his vile act. The conflict between father and son happens in everybody’s presence. Picking up the scattered banknotes the father throws them in the face of his son. The insult has done away with Marguerite in her soul by releasing a new sharp fit of her illness. Everybody has left her – the count and the friends. She has almost surrendered herself to death; she is even as if she already desires it when the repentant Duval-father visits her bringing a letter from his son. Memories rush into her soul making her get up from the bed. She dances in anxious expectation, happily intoxicated with hope. Armand rushes into her room catching her in his arms, but it is already too late...