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ClassicsOnline Home » VERDI: Trovatore (Il) (Highlights)
(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
Act I: The Duel
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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 mother's death (Stride la vampa!), the sound of the flames
and her mother's cries, as she was burned to death.
 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 ( 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
 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.
 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.
 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
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
 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.
 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
Leonora, in desperation, offers herself to the Count, in return for
Manrico's life. He seems to agree, while Leonora plans to take poison.
 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
 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.
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VERDI: Trovatore (Il) (Highlights)