Prostitution in Opera

Courtesans, as opposed to prostitutes of today, commanded respect in European society centuries ago. They sold themselves for sex, but they also mastered upper-class decorum and amassed fortunes. Many doubled as artists or actresses. Kings – and even queens – called upon their rarefied services. Were Laura Bush a courtesan, she’d swap that always-frumpy librarian get-up for lace and rouge.

La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, is an 1853 opera about a courtesan in Paris named Violetta Valery. It’s the third-most performed opera in America. If by chance you haven’t heard of it, look to Pretty Woman or Moulin Rouge for a facsimile of the plotline. In short, a man courts Violetta and tries to steal her away from her profession. This Saturday, the Lake Worth Playhouse (713 Lake Avenue, Lake Worth) will show La Traviata, but in HDTV, not on a stage. The broadcast will travel from La Scala, the world-famous opera house in Milan. The show starts at 2 p.m.; in the preceding hour, an expert on opera will speechify and answer questions. Tickets cost $22. Call 561-586-6410, or visit
Sat., March 1, 2008

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Penn Bullock