Beautiful and fascinating Violetta is the focal point of smart Parisian society. Only few are aware that she is mortally ill. To celebrate a temporary improvement in her health she throws a party, at which she is introduced to a young man from the provinces. Alfredo Germont has already long since loved the famous courtesan from afar. His declaration of ardent passion for her leaves her confused. She is inclined to reject him, but offers him the prospect of another meeting.
Violetta has given up her social life In Paris and is living in the country with Alfredo. But happiness can be expensive. Discovering that Violetta is intending to sell up her entire property so as to finance their life together, Alfredo immediately departs for the city in search of money. Meanwhile, Violetta is visited by Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’ s father, who demands from her that they separate. Alfredo’ s association with a woman of Violetta’ s reputation is ruining the social standing of the Germonts, and the impending marriage of his daughter, Alfredo’ s own sister, is in danger. Aware of having no rights or resources, Violetta prepares a letter of farewell for Alfredo. On his return, after a brief declaration of love, she tells him that she must go to Paris. On reading her letter Alfredo realizes the implication of this. His father endeavours in vain to persuade him to come home to Provence. Alfredo departs headlong for Paris.
At a party of the courtesan Flora Bervoix, Violetta und Alfredo meet again. She is escorted by her former lover Baron Douphol. Unwilling to be ignored, Alfredo resorts to reckless gambling, and is then offensive to Violetta and her swain: on her imploration that he should leave the party, he throws his winnings in her face in front of everyone, declaring them to be his “payment” for their months together. The assembled guests are indignant and Douphol challenges Alfredo to a duel. Even at this juncture Violetta says nothing to explain the situation.
Violetta is seriously ill. The doctor cannot conceal from her that she only has a short time to live. A letter from Germont père informs her that Alfredo is returning; he has learned the true reason for her leaving for Paris. Violetta has hardly any life strength left. Alfredo arrives and begs forgiveness, and for a moment the two of them dream of a happy end far from Paris. But it is too late. Violetta’s only comfort is that she did not have to die alone.