Paris 1920's les Années folles, or the roaring twenties
The world is embracing new lifestyles after the First World War. Paris was at the heart of it. Violetta Valéry is giving a party in Paris, where she is introduced to Alfredo Germont, a young man who has admired her from afar. Alfredo had been visiting her daily, during the past year whilst Violetta was ill, asking after her.
As the guests go off to dance, Violetta stays behind, suffering a fainting spell. Alfredo returns to her, expressing both his concern and love. She dismisses Alfredo’s advances but invites him to come back when the camellia she gives him has faded. Finally alone, Violetta reflects on Alfredo’s love compared to her current life of pleasure.
Act II Scene 1
Violetta has abandoned her life as a Parisienne party girl and is living happily with Alfredo in the countryside. When Alfredo learns from maid Annina that Violetta has been selling her own possessions to help pay their living expenses he immediately returns to Paris to pay the debts. Violetta opens an invitation from her friend Flora to a party that night. Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont, arrives to demand that Violetta leaves Alfredo. He explains that the social standing of his family is being damaged by the scandal of her association with his son. Violetta promises to leave Alfredo temporarily to help Germont. But no, Germont wants her to leave his son forever. Violetta writes a farewell note, which she hides when Alfredo returns. After declaring her love, Violetta leaves to return to Paris and Flora’s party. Alfredo reads the farewell letter from Violetta and Germont arrives attempting to comfort his son. Alfredo sees the invitation to Flora’s and sets off to the party.
Scene 2: Flora's party in Paris
Alfredo arrives and finds Violetta back in her old life. Alfredo recklessly gambles at cards and wins. Supper intervenes and Violetta pretends she now loves the Baron, keeping the earlier promise she made to Alfredo’s father. Alfredo denounces her to everyone present and throws his winnings at her feet and proclaims that his debt to her is now paid in full. Giorgio Germont arrives and shames his son into remorse.
Act III: Violetta's apartment in Paris
Violetta has been mostly confined to bed by her illness and the Doctor has explained to Annina that she has only a short time to live. A letter of apology from Germont brings her a little hope, for now he wishes to undo the damage he has done and to ask her forgiveness. Alfredo returns and the two lovers are reunited. In their joy, they plan to leave Paris again for the country. As Germont arrives, Violetta feeling her life return, briefly recovers only to die in the arms of Alfredo.