Verdi's Violetta Valéry was previously Dumas's Marguerite Gauthier from The Lady of the Camellias. Dumas's inspiration was the Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis, as she called herself since she disliked her rural origins and real name, Alphonsine Plessis. Dumas would say that she had both heart and spirit, which is probably why she met an untimely end, unhappy and poor. Despite the initial failure, Verdi was determined to bring this fallen heroine, whose life's turning points he transformed into perhaps the most famous work in the world opera repertoire, to the stage. Based on Alexandre Dumas the younger's play The Lady of the Camellias, Verdi and his librettist Francesco Maria Piave created a timeless, moving musical and dramatic story of sacrifice and redemption, the hypocrisy of conventional bourgeois morality, but above all, of love.
At the center of the plot is the Parisian courtesan Violetta Valéry and her love for Alfredo Germont, whom she, at his father's request, gives up to preserve the Germont family's reputation. La traviata, along with Rigoletto and Il Trovatore, is generally considered the "richest harvest of Italian romantic melodrama," with this opera being the most elegant and refined among the three.
After the fiasco at its premiere in 1854 at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, "La traviata" captured the hearts of opera lovers in subsequent productions and has remained a beloved work. For Verdi, it represented a significant step forward in his quest to express dramatic ideas through music. In the entire soprano repertoire, arias from La traviata are among the most challenging and esteemed.