Music sheet cover
Printed by John Brandard
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This music cover shows a scene from Verdi's popular 1852 opera La Traviata (The Courtesan). It was based on The Lady of the Camellias, Alexander Dumas’ fictionalised account of his affair with the courtesan Marguerite Gautier. In the opera, Alfredo falls in love with the courtesan Violetta but she gives him up when his father persuades her that the relationship is damaging the lives of his son and young daughter. This illustration, drawn by the master of the chromolithograph John Brandard, shows the scene where, believing she has betrayed him, Alfredo publicly throws money at her as payment for her services. The subject was considered so shocking that, when the opera was first produced in London, the setting was transferred to the 16th century, although, as this illustration shows, while the men’s and attendant women’s costumes were suitably ‘historic’, the prima donna is firmly dressed in the height of mid 19th-century fashion. Verdi's operas contain dozens of memorable tunes. Many melodies were arranged into dance form or transcribed for piano so that people could play them at home.