Movies at the Library: Zeffirelli’s dazzling ‘La Traviata’

Shelter Island Library. (Credit: Shelter Island Reporter File Photo)

Shelter Island Library. (Credit: Shelter Island Reporter File Photo)

The Shelter Island “Movies at the Library” series continues Tuesday, October 18 with a screening of Guiseppi Verdi’s opera “La Traviata.” Acclaimed as the best film version of an opera ever made, the 1983 movie was written, designed and directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by James Levine.

This sumptuous production stars Teresa Stratas as the story’s tragic heroine as well as Placido Domingo and Cornell MacNeil in other starring roles.

In its review of the film, the New York Times stated that “Stratas not only sings magnificently but also looks the role. She is a screen presence as riveting to watch as to listen to. Zeffirelli has staged it in a way that serves both the film and the grandeur of the score.”

Verdi’s 1853 libretto is based on the true story of a Parisian courtesan, Marie Duplessis, who had died only a few years earlier. Born into poverty in Normandy and raised by an abusive father after her mother abandoned the family, she was brought to Paris and “sold” at age 14 to a wealthy elderly man.

As she began to realize her beauty could lead to “better things,” she entered the Paris demi-monde and shortly became the city’s most famous courtesan, creating her own salon with clients such as Franz Liszt and Alexander Dumas, fils.

After a few dazzling years in this life she died of tuberculosis shortly after her 23rd birthday. Her funeral procession to Montmarte was attended by thousands of mourners.

Devastated by his loss, Dumas wrote “La Dame aux Carmelias,” a novel based upon her story, which was made into a successful stage play. After seeing the play, Verdi felt moved to create the beloved opera we enjoy today.

Join us October 18 in the library’s lower level community room as we show this wonderful opera and learn a little more of the fascinating back story of its history.

See you there!