Why is it that a joyful song can never move us the way a melancholy one can? Why is nostalgia so sweetly painful? After listening to the frenetic and high energy 'Libiam ne' lieti calici' from La Traviata, the bacchanalian drinking song that opens the opera, close your eyes and savor the sublime and poignant third act aria, 'Addio al passato'.
Imagine a beautiful, dying ex-courtesan. She gave up the only man she ever loved so that his family would not be disgraced by her past. In order to make her lover leave her, she had to convince him that she no longer loved him. After suffering alone with her secret, her lover has finally learned the truth and is rushing to reunite with her, but she knows it is too late. Soon she will be dead and she spends a few moments saying goodbye to the happy memories of her past which will never return.
Maria Callas, Teatro alla Scala, Milano, 1953.
From La Traviata, by Giuseppe Verdi.
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