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8.554707 - VERDI: Trovatore (Il) (Highlights)
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Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901): Il Trovatore (Highlights)

Verdi's very successful career as the leading composer of Italian opera of his time spanned a period of some fifty years, culminating in the Shakespearean operas of his old age, Otello and finally, in 1893, Falstaff. The opera Il Trovatore was written in 1852, ten years after his first great success with Nabucco, and first performed at the Teatro Apollo in Rome on 19th January the following year. The text by the conservative Salvatore Cammarano was based on the play Il trovador by the Spanish romantic writer Antonio García Gntiérrez and was completed, after Cammarano's death in July 1852, by Leone Emanuele Bardare. The opera was given in Paris in Italian in December 1854 at the Théâtre des italiens and in January 1857 a French version was mounted at the Paris Opéra. In order of composition Il Trovatore follows Rigoletto and precedes La traviata, on which Verdi was working during the final stages of the composition of Il Trovatore.

Synopsis

Act I: The Duel

[1] The scene is the courtyard of the palace of the Count di Luna. It is night and Ferrando, a captain of the Count's guard, tells his companions to be alert (All'erta! All'erta!), since the Count is jealously watching for his unknown rival in the love of Leonora, the mysterious troubadour. Ferrando goes on to explain how the old Count had two sons (Di due figli vivea padre beato) and how the younger, Garcia, had been kidnapped. One day a swarthy gypsy woman had been found near the child's cradle (Abbietta zingara, fosca vegliarda!) and had bewitched the boy, who fell ill. The old gypsy woman was seized and burned to death, but the woman's daughter survived and seems to have stolen the child, whose charred body was found where the witch had been burned. The ghost of the gypsy still haunts the place, it is said, during the night.

[2] In the palace gardens, Leonora lingers, remembering the unknown knight whom once she had crowned champion of the tournament, but who had disappeared when civil war broke out. Once, Leonora tells her attendant, Ines, in the silence of the night, the sound of a lute was heard from her garden and the sad song of a troubadour (Tacea la notte placida e bella in ciel sereno). This is the one she loves.

[3] In spite of the misgivings of Ines, Leonora goes on to tell how she will live and, if she must, die for this love (Di tale amor che dirsi). They go together into the palace.

The Count comes into the garden. The sound of the troubadour's song is heard and he shudders in jealousy and wraps his cloak around him, as he hears Leonora approaching. She, thinking him the troubadour, seeks to embrace him, while Manrico, the troubadour, exclaims on her apparent perfidy.

[4] The moon emerges from behind the clouds and the troubadour, his face covered by a visor, comes forward. Leonora realises her mistake (Qual voce!) and throws herself at his feet, declaring her love for him, to the Count's jealous rage. At the Count's urging, Manrico reveals himself as a follower of the rebel Urgel, and is challenged to a duel.

[5] The Count rages in jealousy (Di geloso amor sprezzato). Leonora tries to deflect his anger, turning it towards herself, while Manrico bravely declares his intention of killing his enemy. Leonora swoons, as the two rivals rush at each other, with drawn swords.

Act II: The Gypsy

In the foothills of a mountain in Biscay, a fire bums in the gypsy encampment. It is dawn and the old gypsy Azucena sits near the fire, while Manrico lies nearby on a mattress, wrapped in his cloak.

[6] The gypsies welcome the break of day (Vedi! le fosche notturne spoglie), as they start work, with their anvils, praising the beauty of their women.

[7] They break off, however, as Azucena begins to recount the story of her mother's death (Stride la vampa!), the sound of the flames and her mother's cries, as she was burned to death.

[8] Left alone with Manrico, Azucena tells him how her mother was led in chains to her fate, followed by Azucena holding her son in her arms (Condotta ell'era in ceppi). In vain she tried to stop and bless her daughter and her last words urged her to vengeance. In reply to Manrico's question she goes on to tell how she seized the Count's son, but in her frenzy threw her own child into the flames. Azucena falls back in anguish, and Manrico is silent, struck with horror and surprise at what he has heard. She bids him take revenge. A messenger appears with the news that Leonora, believing Manrico dead, is to enter a convent. He brings orders for Manrico to lead the defence of Castellor against the forces of the Count.

By the cloister of a convent near Castellor, the Count, Ferrando and some followers enter cautiously through the night, wrapped in their cloaks. The Count finds all deserted ([9] Tuffo ?deserto), as he and his men make their way into the convent, intent on abducting Leonora. The Count recalls the light of her smile (Il balen del suo sorriso), which conquers reason, of his love and of the tempest in his heart. They hide, as the bell sounds for the coming ceremony. Leonora is resigned to her fate, but as the Count attempts to seize her, Manrico appears, disarms the Count and his men, and rescues her.

Act III: The Gypsy's Son

[10] In the Count's camp some of the soldiers call for another game (Or co'dadi, ma fra poco / Giocherem ben altro gioco), while others see the approach of the reinforcements they had awaited. Ferrando assures them of certain victory, when the new day dawns. The men await the call to arms (Squilla, eccheggi la tromba guerriera), eager for the spoils of battle.

Azucena is captured by the Count's men and recognized. The Count now imagines he has the mother of Manrico in his power and can take revenge on her for the supposed death of his brother.

[11] In a room adjacent to the chapel of Castellor, Manrico tells Leonora of the strength his love gives him (Amor…sublime amor): if it is his fate to be killed in battle with the Count, yet his thoughts will turn to her. The organ is heard from the nearby chapel.

[12] Ruiz now appears, telling Manrico of the capture and imminent death of Azucena, whom he declares to be his mother. He can already see the flames in which Azucena must die (Di quella pira l'orrendo foco) and feel them: he must save her. The men are called to arms, to fight or die with Manrico, who rushes out, followed by Ruiz and his soldiers. The sound of battle is heard.

Act IV: Torture

Manrico, captured, is imprisoned in the Count's palace. It is night and Ruiz and Leonora stand below the tower, from which she hopes to rescue her lover.

[13] Love, she says, will bring comfort to the mind of the prisoner (D'amor sull'ali rosee…vanne). The sound of the death knell is heard.

[14] Voices within sing the Miserere (Miserere d'un alma gi? vicina…Alla partenza che non ha ritorno!), praying for mercy on those about to die. Leonora exclaims on the sound of these prayers. The voice of Manrico is heard from the tower, bidding his Leonora farewell, as the chant goes on.

Leonora, in desperation, offers herself to the Count, in return for Manrico's life. He seems to agree, while Leonora plans to take poison.

[15] Azucena is lying on a rough mattress in a wretched dungeon in the castle. Manrico sits near her. He asks her why she does not sleep (Madre, non dormi?), and wonders if the cold troubles her, but she tells him that the air chokes her: soon, though, she will be free, for the mark of death is upon her. She sees in her mind the bumming fire, and Manrico tries to comfort her, as she falls back in his arms, and he lays her gently down on her mattress. Weariness comes upon her (S? la stanchezza m'opprime) and now she dreams of her home, the hills and the ancient peace. She falls asleep, Manrico kneeling by her side.

The door opens and Leonora comes in, revealing her plan to help Manrico escape and the price she has paid for it, eventually telling him that she is dying.

[16] As Leonora dies, the Count comes in, realising now that he has been deceived. He orders Manrico to be put to death, and he bids Azucena farewell, as he is taken out. The Count drags her to the window to see her son die, but Azucena tells him that Manrico was his brother (Egli era il tuo fratello!), as she falls to the ground; she has taken her revenge.

Keith Anderson


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