Verdi’s La traviata is arguably the most achingly romantic opera ever written, a rapturous paean to pure love and a delirious farewell to the empty glitter of the Parisian demimonde. At the center of the tragedy is Violetta, a frail courtesan hoping for Mr. Right to come along. Known as “la dame aux camelias”–the title of the younger Dumas’ book on which the opera is based–she indicates her availability by wearing camellias. Though she is coveted by men of power and wealth she is forever condemned to be a trophy mistress. Then, to the surprise of her cynical friends, she falls in love with Alfredo, a callow aristocrat who courts her with youthful ardor. His family intervenes, of course, setting into motion Violetta’s ultimate gesture of self-sacrifice. This Verdi gem boasts a string of gorgeous heartwrenching arias and duets; just as vivid is its unflinching expose of the hypocrisy and decadence of the leisure class. June Anderson, the American-born bel canto marvel, sings in this new Lyric production. Director Frank Galati has promised a psychoanalytical and socially relevant approach. Desmond Heeley’s sets are said to be lush and impressionistic. Tenor Giuseppe Sabbatini plays Alfredo and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, the young Siberian baritone with matinee-idol looks, appears as Germont, Alfredo’s father. The only drawback may be Bruno Bartoletti, a conductor with a questionable grasp of dramatic subtlety. Saturday, 7 PM, and Wednesday, 7.30 PM, with additional performances through October 4, Lyric Opera at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker; 332-2244.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Fabian Sygma, J. Henry Fair.