Background of the libretto of “La Traviata”
26 Sep 2014

Background of the libretto of “La Traviata”

Alexandre Dumas Son

Alexandre Dumas Son is one of the three illegitimate children of Alexandre Dumas, the author of the famous novel “The Three Musketeers”. In 1824, when Dumas Father was married to the actress Ida Ferrier, he has fathered a son, born by a Paris dressmaker. Although the mother treated her son with tender love, although the author of “The Count of Monte Cristo” acknowledged immediately his paternity, the little Alexandre spent his childhood with the feeling of inferiority. Later, as already formed writer, Dumas Son turned back to this melancholic period of his infant years in the play “The Illegitimate Son” (1858).

The French novelist gained popularity with the stage version of “The Lady of the Camellias” in 1852. The plot enacts the fortunes of the courtesan Marie Duplessis, who sacrifices herself because of the happiness of her beloved. The author met Duplessis in 1844, when he moved to Saint-Germain to live with his father.

Then followed the plays “The Money Question” (1857), “The Friend of Women” (1864). The dramatist interceded for the equality of rights of the sexes and treated with condescension their past sins in “The Ideas of Madame Aubray”.

Alexandre Dumas Son considered the French theatre as an instrument for social impact. His views about the social shortcomings of the time he stated in long forwards to his plays. His mania for moral order reached so far that he proposed measures for recovery and laws, which to fight against the social shortcomings. This is what are “affected” the large monologues in the texts, which doll up the plays.

“Women are thinking about nothing or they are thinking about something else”, considered the writer. But however this statement may sound, he remained ardent protector of the rights of the gentle sex. In the drama “Princess Georges” (1871) he criticized the laws of marriage, which don’t allow the women to divorce with their unfaithful husbands, and in the play “Claude’s Wife” he grounded the moral right of the man to kill his unfaithful wife.

In 1853, the celebrated Giuseppe Verdi composed his opera “La Traviata” after the text of “The Lady of the Camellias”. Although Dumas Son admitted that he had adapted his novel in order to solve his money problem of that time, the production brought enormous popularity to the writer. He himself said: “Business? It’s so simple – this is the money of the others.” About twenty years later Alexandre Dumas Son became Knight of the Legion of Honour.

The dramatist had two daughters from his marriage with Nadejda von Knorring. He deceased in 1895, and his monument in the Paris cemetery by a strange coincidence is at several hundred meters away from the grave of Marie Duplessis.