Opera Daily 🎶 — “The Drinking Song”

Today we’re listening to something lighter🍾🍻

“Libiamo ne’lieti calici” (popularly know as “The Drinking Song”) is the famous duet with chorus from Act I of the Italian opera La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. Sung by Alfredo (Luciano Pavarotti) and Violetta (Joan Sutherland) here when they first meet, it is probably the most famous drinking song in opera (this type of song is also known as a brindisi which is “toast” in Italian).

🎧 Listen here (3 minute listen):

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A story of sickness, love, and death, La Traviata (lah-trah-VEE-ah-tuh) follows Violetta, a young courtesan who is sick with tuberculosis, as she falls in love with Alfredo. While she struggles with the fact that she is dying, she falls for him and they leave the city to live together in the French countryside. Alfredo’s father who does not approve of their relationship, comes and guilts Violetta (vee-oh-LET-tah) into leaving Alfredo and returning to her old life. Thinking she has betrayed him, Alfredo is heartbroken. A few months later, Violetta is close to death and Alfredo, who has learned why Violetta left him, goes to her. They vow to be together forever, but she soon collapses and dies in his arms.

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Conversation starters

  • La Traviata was the most performed opera worldwide during the 2015/16 season with a total of 4,190 performances across 869 separate productions.

  • While the events take place in and around Paris during the 1840s, La Traviata’s plot has been repurposed in movies like Pretty Woman and Moulin Rouge. Music from this opera can also be heard in The Godfather and In the Line of Fire.

  • Joan Sutherland was an Australian (dramatic coloratura) soprano known for her contribution to the bel canto repertoire from the late 1950s through to the 1980s. Bel canto literally translates to “beautiful singing,” and it was a popular singing style in Italian opera from the mid-18th to early 19th centuries. If you want to hear more from Joan, I recommend this.

Thank you for listening,