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ClassicsOnline Home » VERDI: Trovatore (Il) (La Scala, Molajoli) (1930)
By Robert Levine
Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901): Il trovatore (The Troubadour)
Giuseppe Verdi was born at Le Roncole, near Busseto (Parma) in 1813, the son of an inn-keeper. His early musical ambitions were encouraged and he came to owe much to Antonio Barezzi, a merchant in Busseto and his future father-in-law. He married in 1836 but the two children of the marriage died in early childhood, losses followed by the death of their mother in 1840. Study in Milan and employment in Busseto had been coupled with attempts at success in the opera-house, only realised in 1842 with the staging of Nabucco at La Scala, Milan, with the assistance of the singer Giuseppina Strepponi, for many years to be Verdis companion and eventually, in 1859, his wife.
Verdis 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. Associated in the public mind with Italian unification, his very name an acronym for the new king, Vittorio Emanuele re dItalia, at the insistence of Count Cavour, he became a deputy, but any real political contribution he made to the cause of Italian unity and independence was through his music, notably where dramatic events in his operas matched contemporary political circumstances.
The opera Il trovatore was written in 1852 and first performed at the Teatro Apollo in Rome on 19th January the following year. The text by the conservative Salvatore Cammarano, who had provided Donizetti with the libretto for Lucia di Lammermoor, was based on the play Il trovador by the Spanish romantic writer Antonio García Gutiérrez and was completed, after Cammaranos 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.
Toscanini had resigned from La Scala in 1929, after a triumphant tour with the company he had established. The singers he had engaged included the soprano Bianca Scacciati, here partnered by the Milan-born tenor Francesco Merli, whose career at La Scala continued until 1942. The rôle of Azucena is undertaken by a singer of great distinction, Giuseppina Zinetti and that of the Conte di Luna by the great Verdi baritone Enrico Molinari. The performance is conducted by Lorenzo Molajoli, who directed so many of these recordings with the company of La Scala.
Additional operatic excerpts involving Bianca Scacciati, several of them with the tenor Francesco Merli, include the trio from the third act of Verdis I Lombardi alla prima crociata (The Lombards at the First Crusade) first staged at La Scala in 1843, the year after Nabucco. In a cave Giselda tends the wounded Oronte, son of the tyrant of Antioch, joined by her fathers brother and sworn enemy Pagano, as a hermit bringing holy water, the scene accompanied by a solo violin.
Filippo Marchettis opera Ruy Blas, based on the play by Victor Hugo, was first mounted at La Scala in 1869. To take revenge for exile, the villainous courtier Don Sallustio has introduced his valet to the Queen as a nobleman, Don Cesare, in which guise he wins honours and her love. Don Sallustio returns from the exile imposed on him and reveals the dishonour that the Queen has brought on herself. He is killed by Ruy Blas in a duel, an action that restores the latter to royal favour. The love-duet from the third act reveals the true nature of the feelings of Ruy Blas and the Queen.
The Brazilian composer Carlos Gomes opera Il Guarany had its first very successful performance in 1870 at La Scala. Set in mid-sixteenth-century Brazil, it deals with the love of Cecilia, daughter of the Portuguese nobleman Don Antonio, and Peri, son of the native Guarany chieftain. Her father intends to marry her to another, while an unsuccessful suitor, Gonzales, plots against Don Antonio, his plans revealed by Peri, who after saving Cecilia again is entrusted with her safety, while her father destroys himself and his castle, to foil the machinations of Gonzales. The present duet finds Peri and Cecilia first aware of their love for each other.
Catalanis opera Loreley had its first performance at the Teatro Regio in Turin in 1890. By the Rhine in 1300 Walter von Oberwesel is in love with Loreley, but pledged to marry Anna von Rehberg, a pledge he fulfils. Loreley offers herself to the river god Albrich and dives into the water, to emerge more beautiful at Walters wedding. He deserts his bride, who dies, and joins Loreley, eventually to drown in the river to which she has bound herself to return, drawn by ineluctable forces.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Opera in 4 Acts
Il Conte di Luna
Un vecchio zingaro
Parte Prima: Il Duello
Introduzione: Allerta! Allerta! (Ferrando, Coro)
Di due figli vivea padre beato-Abbietta zingara/ Sullorlo dei tetti (Ferrando, Coro)
Che più tarresti? (Ines, Leonora)
Tacea la notte placida
Di tale amor (Leonora, Ines)
Tace la notte! (Il Conte)
Deserto sulla terra (Manrico, Il Conte)
Non minganno. Ella scende!
Di geloso amor (Il Conte, Leonora, Manrico)
Parte Seconda: La Gitana
Vedi! Le fosche notturne spoglie (Coro)
Stride la vampa! (Azucena)
Mesta è la tua canzon! (Coro, Azucena, Manrico, Un vecchio zingaro)
Soli or siam! (Manrico, Azucena)
Condotta ellera in ceppi (Azucena, Manrico)
Non son tuo figlio? (Manrico, Azucena)
Mal reggendo allaspro assalto (Manrico, Azucena, Un messo)
Tutto è deserto (Il Conte, Ferrando)
Il balen del suo sorriso
Per me, ora fatale (Il Conte, Ferrando, Coro)
Ah! se lerror tingombra (Coro, Il Conte, Ferrando)
Perché piangete? (Leonora, Ines, Il Conte, Coro)
E deggio, e posso crederlo? (Leonora, Il Conte, Manrico, Ferrando, Coro, Ines, Ruiz)
Parte Terza: Il figlio della Zingara
Or co dadi
Squilli, echeggi la tromba guerriera (Coro, Ferrando)
In braccio al mio rival! (Il Conte, Ferrando, Azucena, Coro)
Giorni poveri vivea (Azucena, Ferrando, Il Conte, Coro)
Parte Terza, continued
Quale darmi fragore pocanzi intesi? (Leonora, Manrico)
Ah, sì, ben mion (Manrico)
Londa de suoni mistici (Leonora, Manrico)
Manrico?/ Che?/ La zingara (Ruiz, Manrico, Leonora)
Di quella pira (Manrico, Leonora, Ruiz, Coro)
Parte Quarta: Il Supplizio
Siam giunti (Ruiz, Leonora)
Damor sullali rosee (Leonora)
Miserere/ Ah! che la morte ognora (Coro interno, Leonora, Manrico)
Udiste? Come albeggi (Il Conte, Leonora)
Qual voce!/ Mira, di acerbe lagrime
Vivrà! Contende il giubilo (Il Conte, Leonora)
Madre, non dormi?/ Ai nostri monti (Manrico, Azucena)
Che! Non minganna quel fioco lume?
Ha questinfame lamor venduto (Manrico, Leonora, Azucena) Ti scosta!/ Non respingermi (Manrico, Leonora, Il Conte, Azucena)
Part I. The Duel
Scene 1. Courtyard in the palace of Aliaferia. There is a door to one side, leading to the apartments of the Count di Luna.
No. 1 Introduction
 Ferrando, a captain of the guard in the service of the Count di Luna, tells his companions to be alert (Allerta! Allerta!), 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 childs 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 womans 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. The bystanders agree, claiming that others have seen the apparition, in one form or another (Sullorlo dei tetti alcun lha veduta). Midnight strikes and they disperse in fear.
Scena 2. The palace gardens. To the right is a marble staircase leading to the apartments. Thick clouds cover the moon.
No. 2 Scena & Cavatina
 Ines, Leonoras companion, urges her to come in and wait no longer (Che più tarresti?), but Leonora remembers 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, 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. 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.
No. 3 Scena, Romanza & Terzetto
 The Count comes into the garden, observing the silence of the night (Tace la notte) and telling of his love for Leonora, who still watches.
 As he turns towards the steps, he hears the sound of the troubadours song, Deserto sulla terra (Nothing is left me on earth).
 The Count 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. 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 the feet of Manrico, declaring her love for him, to the Counts jealous rage. At the Counts urging, Manrico reveals himself, known as a follower of the rebel Urgel, and is challenged to a duel. 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 out, with drawn swords.
Part II. The Gypsy
Scene 1. A poor dwelling in the foothills of a mountain in Biscay. In the background there burns a great fire. It is dawn. The old gypsy Azucena sits near the fire, while Manrico lies nearby on a mattress, wrapped in his cloak. His helmet is at his feet, his sword at his hand. The gypsies are all around.
No. 4 Gypsy Chorus & Canzone
 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.
 They break off, however, as Azucena begins to recount the story of her mothers death (Stride la vampa!), the sound of the flames and her mothers cries, as she was burned.
 The gypsies find this a sad song (Mesta è la tua canzon!), but Azucena seeks from Manrico one thing, vengeance (Mi vendica!). The gypsies prepare to leave to seek food, and their song is heard as they move away into the distance, leaving Manrico and Azucena alone.
No. 5 Scena & Racconto
 Now they are alone, Manrico seeks to hear Azucenas story (Soli or siamo!).
 Azucena tells him how her mother was led in chains to her fate, followed by Azucena holding her son in her arms (Condotta ellera in ceppi). In vain she tried to stop and bless her daughter and her last words urged her to vengeance. In reply to Manricos question she goes on to tell how she seized the Counts 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.
No. 6 Scena & Duetto
 Manrico now asks who he is, if he is not Azucenas son (Non son tuo figlio?), but she tells him that he is her son: did she not nurse him back to life when the Count di Luna left him for dead on the field of battle.
 Manrico goes on to recall how he was about to kill the fallen Count, when a cry from heaven bade him hold (Mal reggendo allaspro assalto). Azucena finds no such mercy in the Count (Ma nellalma dellingrato / Non parlò del cielo un detto!) and Manrico swears that another time he will take his revenge. The sound of a horn is heard and Azucena again bids him avenge her. Manrico turns to a messenger, who has appeared with written orders for him to lead the defence of Castellor (Inoltra il più) urging haste, while telling him that Leonora, thinking him dead, is to take the veil that evening at the Convent of the Cross nearby. Azucena asks what troubles him and tries to hold him back, but he insists on leaving at once. She again bids Manrico stay (Ferma . . . Son io che parlo a te!), but he tells her that a moments delay may cost him his beloved. She still insists that his blood is her blood, but he must away.
No. 7 Scena & Aria
Scene 2. The cloister of a convent near Castellor. There are trees in the background. It is night. The Count, Ferrando and some followers enter cautiously, wrapped in their cloaks.
 The Count finds all deserted (Tutto è deserto), as he and his men make their way into the convent, intent on abducting Leonora, who must be his alone.
 The Count sings of the light of her smile (Il balen del suo sorriso), which conquers reason, of his love and of the tempest that rages in his heart. He hears the bell that announces the coming ceremony (Qual suono! . . . Oh ciel! . . . La squilla vicino il rito annunzia!), and tells his followers to hide themselves, while he himself observes secretly the approach of Leonora. Ferrando and the Counts followers conceal themselves, while the Count anticipates his joy in seizing Leonora, away from God, his rival. They hide among the trees.
No. 8 Second Finale
 The voices of the nuns are heard, preparing the daughter of Eve, Leonora, for her vows (Ah! se lerror tingombra, o figlia dEva). The Count exclaims that no God can take Leonora from him, while the ceremony continues.
 Leonora and Ines come in, the former asking her confidante why she is crying (Perchè piangete?). Leonora tells her that life now has nothing for her; she has turned her thoughts to a life of penitence. At this the Count rushes forward, vowing that it must be only the altar of marriage that holds her. At this moment Manrico appears.
 Leonora is overjoyed (E deggio e posse crederlo?) and can hardly believe her eyes, thinking that this must be a dream. The Count is horrified, since he thought Manrico dead in battle. Ruiz and his men appear, proclaiming the rebel Urgel, and Manrico, accompanied by Leonora, leaves in their company, once the Count, who has drawn his sword, is disarmed, furious as he is.
Part III. The Gypsys Son
Scene 1. An encampment. On the right is the pavilion of the Count di Luna, carrying the commanders standard. The towers of Castellor are seen above. Soldiers are gambling, while some polish their weapons and others pass to and fro. Ferrando comes out of the Counts pavilion.
No. 9 Introductory Chorus
 Some of the soldiers call for another game (Or codadi, ma fra poco / Giuocherem ben altro gioco), while others see the banner of the Balestrieri, the reinforcements they had awaited. Ferrando assures them of certain victory, when the new day dawns. The men await the call to arms (Tu cinviti a danza!), eager for the spoils of battle.
No. 10 Scena & Terzetto
 The Count is tormented by the thought of Leonora in the arms of his rival (In braccio al mio rival!). A tumult is heard and Ferrando comes in, telling him that a gypsy woman has been caught by their men. The noise comes nearer and Azucena, her hands bound, is dragged in, protesting at her treatment. The Count interrogates her, asking where she was going, and she tells him that gypsies wander aimlessly; she comes, however, from Biscay, information that disturbs the Count and Ferrando.
 Azucena tells them of her poverty and contentment and how now she seeks her son (Giorni poveri vivea / Pur contento del mio stato). The Count asks her if she remembers a son of the family, kidnapped some fifteen years before. She asks him who he is, and he tells her that he is that boys brother. Ferrando observes her reaction and now accuses her of stealing the child. She tries to quieten him, but he declares that this is the woman that burned the child. She denies it, but the Count orders the men to tighten her bonds. In pain she calls on her son Manrico, and the Count now realises he has the mother of his hated rival in his power. Azucena bids them desist, warning them of the anger of God, who will punish the Count (Ah! Deh! rallentate, o barbari). He reproaches her, a base gypsy, with that traitor. Now he can strike his enemy through her suffering and avenge his dead brother. At a sign from the Count his men, threatening her with the fires of hell, drag her away, while he withdraws into his tent, followed by Ferrando.
Scene 2. A room adjacent to the chapel of Castellor, with an open gallery in the background.
No. 11 Scena & Aria
 Leonora seeks to know the meaning of the warlike preparations (Quale darmi fragor / Pocanzi intesi?). Manrico tells her of their imminent danger and the assault expected at dawn: he, however, is certain of victory, since his men are as brave as the enemy. Leonora thinks this bodes ill for their marriage. Manrico sings of the strength his love gives him (Amor, sublime amor).
 He is hers, and she his and this will make him the stronger. If it is his fate to be killed, yet his thoughts will turn to her, for death will only mean that he will be in heaven before her.
 The organ is heard from the nearby chapel. Now they must go there together, as the mystic sounds touch their hearts (Londa desuoni mistici / Pura discende al cor!).
 Ruiz calls to Manrico, telling him of the capture and imminent death by burning of Azucena, and he now reveals to Leonora that he is the gypsys son.
 Manrico can already see the flames in which Azucena must die (Di quella pira lorrendo 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.
Part IV. Torture
Scene 1. A wing of the palace of Alaferia. At the corner is a tower with barred windows. It is deepest night. Two people come forward, cloaked, Ruiz and Leonora.
No. 12 Scena, Aria & Miserere
 Ruiz shows Leonora the cell where the prisoners are kept (Siam giunti, ecco la torre). She tells him to leave her, since she may be able to save Manrico. She looks at a jewel she holds in her hand. Now she is near her lover, although he does not know it.
 Love, she says, will bring comfort to the mind of the prisoner, like a breath of hope (Damor sullali rosee / Vanne).
 The sound of the death knell is heard. Voices within sing the Miserere (Miserere dun alma già 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 declares that she will never forget him (Di te! Di te! Scordarmi di te!).
No. 13 Scena & Duetto
 A door opens and the Count and some of his followers come out. Leonora steps aside. The Count now gives orders for the execution of the son and his mother (Udiste? Come albeggi, / La scure al figlio ed alla madre il rogo!), lamenting that he cannot find Leonora. At this she comes forward, telling him she has come, at the last moment, to ask for mercy, but he refuses her.
 The Count starts, as he hears Leonoras voice. She throws herself in desperation at his feet, pleading with him to have mercy on her tears (Mira, di acerbe lagrime), but this only increases his thirst for revenge. Now she offers him herself, if he will only release Manrico. He swears that he will do so, and she pledges herself to him. The Count now calls to a guard in the tower and speaks in his ear, while Leonora takes the poison secreted in her ring: the Count will have her, but she will be cold, not living. Leonora is now happy (Vivrà . . . Contende il giubilo / i detti a me, Signore): she will die, but Manrico will live. The Count seeks her assurance that she is his and she pledges her faith.
Scene 2. A wretched dungeon. There is a barred window and a door in the background. A dim lamp hanging from a wall-ring sheds a pale light on the scene. Azucena is lying on a rough mattress and Manrico sits near her.
No. 14 Last Finale
 Manrico asks Azucena 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 burning 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 (Si, la stanchezza mopprime) 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.
 Manrico thinks that the light deceives him (Che! . . Non minganna quel fioco lume?), but Leonora assures him that now he will be safe: he can escape, but she must stay. Manrico has no desire for life without her and asks her what price she has paid for his freedom. She dare not answer and he reproaches her (Parlar non vuoi?), understanding what she must have done. She finds his reproach unjustified, urging him to escape, while Azucena is heard again in her sleep recalling her own country. Leonora falls at Manricos feet.
 Manrico tells her to go (Ti scosta!), but she begs him not to blame her, falling to the ground and telling him at last that she is dying, the force of the poison quicker than she had supposed. Manrico is now remorseful. At this moment the Count comes in, as Leonora dies, seeking the grace of heaven, and he realises he has been deceived. He now orders Manrico to be taken to his death, and the latter bids his mother farewell. 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, her revenge achieved.
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VERDI: Trovatore (Il) (La Scala, Molajoli) (1930)