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Violetta Valéry, a high-priced object of desire in Paris society, is out wildly partying again after a long sickness, but only seemingly recovered. Alfredo, a young man from the country, sings and toasts to the praises of true love. However, Violetta confesses to a different lifestyle of carefree enjoyment of life. In the middle of the wild party she suddenly passes out. After she with- draws from the crowd, Alfredo admits his love for her which Violetta does not want to accept: she can only promise him friendship but not love. But quickly she is overwhelmed by a conflict of feelings: should she give up her life now and accept her feelings?
Violetta and Alfredo are now a couple and have retreated to the countryside. Since then Violetta has accumulated large debts which she is keeping secret from Alfredo. When Alfredo hears from Violetta’s housemaid Annina that she has sold her belongings in order to further finance their shared house- hold, he quickly returns to Paris to do his part and provide for them the necessary means.
During Alfredo’s absence, his father demands that Violetta end the rela- tionship in order to not endanger the family’s honor and therefore engage- ment of his daughter. After a long fight, Violetta consents and sacrifices her own happiness for the sake of Alfredo’s sister. She writes a farewell letter, avoids his return and secretly travels to Paris by herself. After he has read her delivered letter, Alfredo suspects Baron Douphol has stolen Violetta away from him. When he finds invitation for her to a Parisian party, he follows her in order to take his revenge.
At the orgiastic party, feelings are riding high. Alfredo wins at gambling and provokes Douphol. Violetta tries to prevent a further confrontation and asks to talk with Alfredo privately, in which she however withholds from him the true reason for their breakup. When Alfredo pressures her, she ad- mits to him that she loves the Baron. Filled with rage and disappointment, Alfredo insults Violetta as roughly and dirty as possible – horrifying every- one in the room.
The impoverished Violetta is close to dying. Receiving a letter from Alfredo’s father, she hears that Alfredo now knows the truth and understands her sacrifice. But as the lover finally arrives, together with his father who has also hurried over, they find only someone who is dying.