Verdis opera “La Traviata” was a failure when it was first performed. Even though the singers chosen for the leading roles were the best of the day, everything went wrong. The tenor had a cold and sang in a hoarse, almost inaudible voice. The soprano who played the part of the delicate, sickly heroine was one of the stoutest ladies on or off stage, and very healthy and loud.
At the beginning of the Third Act when the doctor declares that consumption was wasted away the “frail, young lady” and she cannot live more than a few hours, the audience was thrown into a spasm of laughter, a state very different from that necessary to appreciate the tragic moment!