On this day, at the La Fenice opera house in Venice, 1853, Guiseppe Verdi's opera La traviata premiered. In a letter to a friend, Verdi wrote, "La traviata last night was a failure. Was the fault mine or the singers'? Time will tell."
Time told. It's one of the most beloved operas in the world. In fact, Operabase recently named it the most performed opera in the world. The Seattle Opera just performed it in January. You can read the Encore Arts Program of that performance, here. The San Francisco Opera performed it as part of their 2013-14 season. You can read that Encore Arts Program, here.
At the premiere performance the audience jeered at times. Some didn't like the casting of soprano Fanny Salvini-Donatelli in the lead role. They thought she was too old (she was 38) and too overweight to play a young woman dying of consumption. The audience also didn't like the singing of baritone Felice Varesi and tenor Lodovico Graziani.
Audiences adore it now.
Here is Renee Fleming in the lead role:
Here's "The Drinking Song":
Here's the opera as a whole: