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ClassicsOnline Home » VERDI: Trovatore (Il)
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 Verdi's companion and eventually, in 1859, his wife.
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. Associated in the public mind with Italian unification, his very name an acronym for the new king, Vittorio Emanuele re d'Italia, 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 19thJanuary 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 Garcia Gutierrez 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 Theatre des italiens and in January 1857 a French version was mounted at the Paris Opera. 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.
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.
 Ferrando, a captain of the guard in the service of the Count di Luna, 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.
 The bystanders agree, claiming that others have seen the apparition, in one form or another (Sull'orlo dei tetti alcun I'ha veduta). Midnight strikes and they disperse in fear.
Scene 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, Leonora's companion, urges her to come in and wait no longer (Che piu t'arresti?), 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 serena). 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), while Leonora still watches.
 As he turns towards the steps, he hears the sound of the troubadour's song, Deserto sulla terra (Nothing is left me on earth). 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 the feet of Manrico, declaring her love for him, to the Count's jealous rage. At the Count's 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 mother's death (Stride la vampa!), the sound of the flames and her mother's cries, as she was burned to death.
 The gypsies find this a sad song (Mesta e 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 Azucena's 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 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.
No.6 Scena & Duetto
 Manrico now asks who he is, if he is not Azucena's 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 all'aspro assalto). Azucena finds no such mercy in the Count (Ma nell'alma dell'ingrato / Non parlo 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 pie) 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.
 Azucena again bids Manrico stay (Ferma... Son io che parlo a te!), but he tells her that a moment's 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 e 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.
 The Count hears the bell that announces the coming ceremony (Qualsuono!... Oh ciel!... La squilla vicino il rito annunzia!). He tells his followers to hide themselves and himself observes secretly the approach of Leonora. Ferrando and the Count's 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 l'error t'ingombra, o figlia d'Eva). 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 (Perche 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 Gypsy's Son.
Scene 1. An encampment. On the right is the pavilion of the Count di Luna, carrying the commander's 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 Count's pavilion.
No.9 Introductory Chorus
 Some of the soldiers call for another game (Or Co'dadi, ma fra poco / Giocherem 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 c'inviti 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 bracciD al miD 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 (Giomi 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 boy's 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! Tallentate, o barbari). The Count reproaches her, a base gypsy, with that traitor. Now he can strike his enemy through her suffering and avenge his dead brother. Ferrando and his men threaten her with the fires of hell and drag her away, while the Count withdraws into his tent.
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 d' armi fragor / Poc' anzi 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): if it is his fate to be killed, yet his thoughts will turn to her. The organ is heard from the nearby chapel.
 Now they must go together to the chapel, as the mystic sounds touch their hearts (L'onda de'suoni 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 gypsy's son.
 Manrico 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.
Part IV. Torture.
Scene 1. A wing of the palace of Alaferia. At the comer 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 them. 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 (D'amor sull'ali rosee / Vanne). The sound of the death knell is heard.
 Voices within sing the Miserere (Miserere d'un alma gill vicina / Alla partenza che non ha ritomo!), 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, no love on earth stronger than hers (Di te! Di te! Scordarmi di te!): she will give her life for him and go down with him to the tomb. A door opens and the Count and some of his followers come out. Leonora steps aside.
No.13 Scena & Duetto
 The Count now gives orders for the execution of the son and his mother (Udiste? Come albeggi, / La scure al figlio ed alla madreil 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.
 Leonora throws herself in desperation at the Count's feet, bidding him have mercy on her tears (Mira, di acerbe lagrime), but this only increases the Count's 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 (Vivra... Contende il giubilo/I dettiame, 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 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.
 Manrico thinks that the light deceives him (Che!... Non m'inganna 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 (Parfar 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 Manrico's 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.
 The Count now orders Manrico to be taken to his death, and he 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.
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