Violetta's House. August in 1850s Paris.
A party is being given at the house of the city's most beautiful and adored courtesan, Violetta Valéry. She greets her guests. Gastone introduces Alfredo Germont to Violetta, and the young man tells Violetta that he admires her and thinks of her constantly. Gastone proposes a toast and Alfredo responds with a drinking song. When the guests move into the ballroom to dance, Violetta feels indisposed and begs her guests to go on without her. Alfredo remains behind and declares how much he loves her. She tells him she can only offer friendship. She gives him a flower, asking him to return when it has faded. Alone, she thinks about Alfredo, but resolves to enjoy herself and her whirlwind lifestyle.
A country house near Paris. The following November.
Alfredo and Violetta have been living together in the country for three months, when Alfredo learns from Annina that Violetta has been selling her possessions to support them. Disgraced, he rushes off to Paris to get money. Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont, surprises Violetta with a visit and requests that she leave Alfredo because his sister may have trouble marrying if her brother is linked to a courtesan. Violetta confesses that Alfredo's love has redeemed her, and that she is very sick and might not live long, but Germont is unmoved and insists on a definite separation. Violetta finally agrees to make the sacrifice and only begs that after she dies, Alfredo should know the reason she left him. She writes a letter and, when Alfredo returns, says good-bye. He assumes she will only be gone for a short while, but a messenger delivers the letter announcing that she has returned to her former lover. Alfredo's father tries to comfort his son, but to no avail.
A room in Flora's house. Later that day.
Violetta's friend Flora is hosting a party. Alfredo's arrival startles the guests, but his disinterest in Violetta garners approval. He joins a game of cards as Violetta and her lover, Baron Douphol, enter. The Baron challenges Alfredo and promptly loses. The guests disperse when dinner is announced. Violetta returns to warn Alfredo that his life is in danger and that he should leave the party. He agrees to go only if she follows him. Remembering her oath to his father, Violetta refuses and, furious, Alfredo calls the guests to witness that he has paid her back for their time together. His father arrives and denounces his son for such shameful behaviour, and Douphol vows to avenge Violetta.
Violetta's bedroom. February 20.
Violetta lies on her deathbed, knowing she will not live much longer. She reads a letter from Alfredo's father, relating how Alfredo fled the country after wounding Douphol in a duel, but promising that he will return to seek her pardon. When Alfredo enters the bedroom, the two reunite joyfully and dream of living in Paris, but Violetta collapses. Alfredo's father arrives and asks foregiveness for the pain he has caused the lovers. Violetta presses a miniature portrait of herself into Alfredo's hands, telling him to give it to the pure bride whom he will marry one day. Violetta suddenly feels that her pains have ceased and that she is coming back to life. But it is too late. . . she dies in Alfredo's arms.