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Grier, F. (2015). La traviata and Oedipus. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 96(2):389-410.

(2015). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 96(2):389-410

La traviata and Oedipus Language Translation

Francis Grier

A video abstract of this article can be viewed at:

(Accepted for publication 1 May 2014)

This paper explores the oedipal themes of Verdi's La Traviata, and proposes that it is his masterly treatment of their complexity which accounts for the psychological power of the opera. It is suggested that a particular quality of this opera lies in its ordinariness: no gross psychopathology is displayed, and yet it is mesmerizing. The claims of the eminent musicologist Joseph Kerman are explored that, in opera, music trumps words when there is a conflict between the apparent meanings of the libretto and the feel of the music, with special reference to the famous duet between Violetta (the fallen woman' - the traviata) - and her lover's father, Giorgio Germont, in which his harsh condemnation of her as conveyed by the libretto text seems to be softened, indeed quite altered, by the music. Other contradictions between the apparently explicit meaning of the text and the implicit sense of the music are also examined. These conflicts are illuminated by John Steiner's theory of two versions of the Oedipus situation, one paranoid-schizoid and the other depressive, which are contrasted with Grunberger's Oedipal views.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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