Completing the Trifecta: Verdi's 'La Traviata' From the Vienna State Opera

Natalie Dessay in La Traviata, a Vienna State Opera productionIf you spend any time at all reading about opera, you've probably seen comparisons between opera and cinema. Those comparisons are easy to make, as the two share any number of common traits, including the enormous impact that individual creative artists -- composers and directors -- can have on their respective genres.

Over the past thirty years, for example, it's hard to think of a film director who has been more influential than Steven Spielberg. His most successful movie, at least in terms of earnings, was E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. Released back in 1982, the film has since earned about 900 million dollars worldwide.

And, as we know by now, Spielberg was no flash in the pan. Jurassic Park, his number two earner, came out in 1993. The third film on Spielberg's earnings list was one of the Indiana Jones movies, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, from 2008. So together, the director's top three money makers span a period of 26 years -- quite an accomplishment in long-lasting popularity.

Yet, what if the opposite were true? What if Spielberg had released all three films, which together have made about 2.5 billion dollars, in rapid succession -- let's say, in the space of less than two years? That might have been even more impressive, but a creative feat like that would be nearly impossible, right? Inconceivable. Well, maybe not.

As it happens, there was one composer -- a man who held a place in the world of 19th-century opera that was every bit as powerful as Spielberg's position in present day Hollywood -- who really did come up with three, historic blockbusters in the span of just 24 months.

Giuseppe Verdi's tragedy Rigoletto premiered in March of 1851. With it's sensational story of a doting father who inadvertently has his own daughter murdered, it has since become one of the composers most popular operas -- which in turn makes it one of the most popular operas ever composed.

Less than two years later, Verdi completed Il Trovatore. Its first performance took place in January of 1853, and its seemingly nonstop string of truly memorable arias and ensembles has also placed that score high on the list of opera's all time greats.

Then, less than two months later, Verdi did it again, with an opera that, if anything, has been even more successful than his previous two. La Traviata made its debut at La Fenice, in Venice, on March 6, 1853. That's just two years -- minus five days -- after Rigoletto premiered at the same theater. Since then, La Traviata may well have become the most popular drama Verdi ever composed.

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents Verdi's La Traviata in a production from the Vienna State Opera, with the charismatic French soprano Natalie Dessay as Violetta, and rising star Vittorio Grigolo as Alfredo, in a performance led by conductor Bertrand de Billy.