(The Troubadour) is an opera in four
acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, based on
the play El trovador (1836) by Antonio Garcia Gutierrez. Cammarano died in
mid-1852 before completing the libretto. This gave the composer the opportunity
to propose significant revisions, which were accomplished under his direction by
the young librettist Leone Emanuele Bardare, and they are seen largely in the
expansion of the role of Leonora.
The opera was first performed at the Teatro Apollo, Rome, on 19 January 1853
where it "began a victorious march throughout the operatic world". Today, in its
Italian version, it is given very frequently and is a staple of the standard
Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano
Il trovatore (The Troubadour) is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play El trovador (1836) by Antonio Garcia Gutierrez. Cammarano died in mid-1852 before completing the libretto. This gave the composer the opportunity to propose significant revisions, which were accomplished under his direction by the young librettist Leone Emanuele Bardare, and they are seen largely in the expansion of the role of Leonora.
The opera was first performed at the Teatro Apollo, Rome, on 19 January 1853 where it "began a victorious march throughout the operatic world". Today, in its Italian version, it is given very frequently and is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire.
Pier Luigi Pizzi on his production of the opera
In my opinion, Il trovatore is a stunning example of Verdian melodrama, a point of reference for many other composers in the 19th century. The perfection of the opera’s musical form, its engaging plot, vivid choral scenes and the unusual beauty of the melodies allowed Verdi to convey with great power human passions including love, hate and jealousy as well as revenge and death.
Returning once again to this opera, so adored by many, and doing so at a mature age, I plan to focus on the psychology of the characters. I will also focus particularly on the intense dramatic story being told. The characters of the protagonists seem to me to create a strong impression.
Azucena is, of course, the lead female character: she treacherously fans the flames of the conflict between Manrico and the Conte di Luna, two brothers unaware of their blood ties, and awakens feelings of rivalry and mutual hatred between them.
I find that the Conte di Luna is another protagonist on whom Verdi bestowed the most noble and passionate arias. The insistence with which he seeks out his lost brother, the ardent passion he feels for Leonora, his fervent desire and his malice at unrequited feelings make the Conte di Luna a powerful dramatic character.
In comparison with him, Manrico, who has the privilege of performing the opera’s most famous aria, remains vulnerable and immature, young and inexperienced – a mere pawn in the hands of the gypsy woman. Of Leonora it could be said that she is one of the most romantic characters in the history of opera. Two arias that Verdi assigned to this role – Tacea la notte placida and D’amor sull ali rosee – rouse the most incredibly tender thoughts for this courageous woman who resolves to sacrifice herself for the sake of love.
This opera stirs powerful emotions in me, and I would like to convey this noble feeling to the audience.
- Place: Biscay and Aragon (Spain)
- Time: Fifteenth century.
Scene 1: The guard room in the castle of Luna (The
Palace of Aljaferia, Zaragoza, Spain)
Ferrando, the captain of the guards, orders his men to
keep watch while Count di Luna wanders restlessly beneath the windows of
Leonora, lady-in-waiting to the Princess. Di Luna loves Leonora, and is jealous
of his successful rival, the troubadour Manrico. In order to keep the guards
awake, Ferrando narrates the history of the count to the guard. (Aria: Di due
figli vivea padre beato / "The good Count di Luna lived happily, the father
of two sons"). Many years ago a gypsy was wrongfully accused of having bewitched
the youngest of the di Luna children; the child had fallen sick and for this the
gypsy had been burnt alive as a witch over her protests of innocence. Dying, she
had commanded her daughter Azucena to avenge her, which she did by abducting the
baby. Although the burnt bones of a child were found in the ashes of the pyre,
the father refused to believe in his son`s death; dying, he commanded his
firstborn, the new Count di Luna, to seek Azucena.
Scene 2: Garden in the palace of the
Leonora confesses her love for Manrico to her confidante,
Ines. (Tacea la notte placida / "The peaceful night lay silent"... Di
tale amor / "A love that words can scarcely describe"). When they have gone,
Count di Luna hears the voice of his rival, Manrico, in the distance:
(Deserto sulla terra / "Alone upon this earth"). While Leonora in the
darkness mistakes the count for her lover, Manrico himself enters the garden,
and she rushes to his arms. The count recognises Manrico as his enemy, who has
been condemned to death due to his political affiliations and challenges him to
a duel over their common love. Leonora tries to intervene, but cannot stop them
from fighting (Trio: Di geloso amor sprezzato / "The fire of jealous
Act 2: The Gypsy Woman
Scene 1: The gypsies` camp
The gypsies sing the Anvil Chorus: Vedi le
fosche notturne / "See! The endless sky casts off her sombre nightly
garb.."). Azucena, the daughter of the Gypsy burnt by the count, is still
haunted by her duty to avenge her mother. (Aria: Stride la vampa / "The
flames are roaring!"). The Gypsies break camp while Azucena confesses to Manrico
that after stealing the di Luna baby she had intended to burn the count`s little
son along with her mother, but overwhelmed by the screams and the gruesome scene
of her mother`s execution, she became confused and threw her own child into the
flames instead (Aria: Condotta ell`era in ceppi / "They dragged her in
bonds"). Manrico realises that he is not the son of Azucena, but loves her as if
she were indeed his mother, as she has always been faithful and loving to him.
Manrico tells Azucena that he defeated Di Luna in their duel, but was held back
from killing him by a mysterious power (Duet: Mal reggendo / "He was
helpless under my savage attack"). A messenger arrives and reports that Leonora,
who believes Manrico dead, is about to enter a convent and take the veil that
night. Although Azucena tries to prevent him from leaving in his weak state
(Ferma! Son io che parlo a te! / "I must talk to you"), Manrico rushes
away to prevent her from carrying out this intent.
Scene 2: In front of the convent
Di Luna and his attendants intend to abduct Leonora and
the Count sings of his love for her (Aria: Il balen del suo sorriso /
"The light of her smile" ... Per me ora fatale / "Fatal hour of my
life"). Leonora and the nuns appear in procession, but Manrico prevents Di Luna
from carrying out his plans and instead, takes Leonora away with him.
Act 3: The Son of the Gypsy Woman
Scene 1: Di Luna`s camp Di Luna and his army are
attacking the fortress where Manrico has taken refuge with Leonora (Chorus:
Or co` dadi ma fra poco / "Now we play at dice"). Ferrando drags in
Azucena, who has been captured wandering near the camp. When she hears di Luna’s
name, Azucena’s reactions arouse suspicion and Ferrando recognizes her as the
murderer of the count’s brother. Azucena cries out to her son Manrico to rescue
her and the count realizes that he has the means to flush his enemy out of the
fortress. He orders his men to build a pyre and burn Azucena before the
Scene 2: A chamber in the castle Inside the
castle, Manrico and Leonora are preparing to be married. She is frightened; the
battle with di Luna is imminent and Manrico’s forces are outnumbered. He assures
her of his love (Aria, Manrico: Ah si, ben mio coll`essere / "Ah, yes, my
love, in being yours"), even in the face of death. When news of Azucena’s
capture reaches him, he summons his men and desperately prepares to attack
(Stretta: Di quella pira l`orrendo foco / "The horrid flames of that
pyre"). Leonora faints.
Act 4: The Punishment
Scene 1: Before the dungeon keep
Manrico has failed to free Azucena and has been
imprisoned himself. Leonora attempts to free him (Aria: D`amor sull`ali
rosee / "On the rosy wings of love"; Chorus & Duet: Miserere /
"Lord, thy mercy on this soul") by begging Di Luna for mercy and offers herself
in place of her lover. She promises to give herself to the count, but secretly
swallows poison from her ring in order to die before Di Luna can possess her
(Duet: Mira, d`acerbe lagrime / "See the bitter tears I
Scene 2: In the dungeon
Manrico and Azucena are awaiting their execution. Manrico
attempts to soothe Azucena, whose mind wanders to happier days in the mountains
(Duet: Ai nostri monti ritorneremo / "Again to our mountains we shall
return"). At last the gypsy slumbers. Leonora comes to Manrico and tells him
that he is saved, begging him to escape. When he discovers she cannot accompany
him, he refuses to leave his prison. He believes Leonora has betrayed him until
he realizes that she has taken poison to remain true to him. As she dies in
agony in Manrico`s arms she confesses that she prefers to die with him than to
marry another (Quartet: Prima che d`altri vivere / "Rather than live as
another`s"). The count has heard Leonora`s last words and orders Manrico`s
execution. Azucena awakes and tries to stop Di Luna. Once Manrico is dead, she
cries: Egli era tuo fratello! Sei vendicata, o madre. / "He was your
brother... You are avenged, oh mother!".