Il trovatore (The Troubadour) is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Leone Emanuele Bardare and Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play El Trovador (1836) by Antonio García Gutiérrez.
It was first performed at the Teatro Apollo, Rome, on 19 January 1853 and was immensely popular, with some 229 productions worldwide in the following three years. In fact, "in Naples, for example, where the opera in its first three years had eleven stagings in six theaters, the performances totaled 190".
During the 1854/55 season while in Paris, Verdi agreed to a French translation of the opera for the Théatre des Italiens, and he made several revisions to it (including adding ballet music for Act 3), but with most of these focusing on the music of Azucena (portrayed by Adelaide Borghi-Mamo for the French premiere) and the finale of Act 4. As Le trouvère the opera received the first of many performances on 12 January 1857.
Il trovatore was first performed in the US on 2 May 1855 at the recently-opened Academy of Music in New York while its UK premiere took place on 10 May 1855 at Covent Garden in London.
Today, almost all performances use the Italian version, although in 2002 the French version, Le trouvère appeared as part of the Sarasota Opera's "Verdi Cycle" of all the composer's work, to be completed by 2013.
As a staple of the standard operatic repertoire, it appears at number 17 on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.
19 January 1853
(Conductor: - )
|Count di Luna, a nobleman in the service
of the Prince of Aragon
|Manrico, a troubadour and officer in the army
of the Prince of Urgel
|Azucena, a gypsy, supposedly Manrico's mother
|Leonora, noble lady, in love with Manrico and
courted by Di Luna
|Ferrando, Luna's officer
|Ines, Leonora's confidante
|Ruiz, Manrico's henchman
|An old gypsy
|Leonora's friends, nuns, the Count's lackeys, warriors, Gypsies
- Place: Biscay and Aragon (Spain)
- Time: Fifteenth century.
Act I: The Duel
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"). It appears that a gypsy had once bewitched the little brother of the count, making the child weak and ill, and for this had been burnt alive as a witch. Dying, she had commanded her daughter Azucena to avenge her, which she did by carrying off the younger brother. 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 Count di Luna to seek Azucena.
Scene 2: Garden in the palace of the princess
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, and compels him to fight. Leonora tries to intervene, but cannot stop them from fighting (Trio: Di geloso amor sprezzato / "The fire of jealous love" ).
Act 2: The Gypsy Woman
Scene 1: The gypsies' camp
While Manrico sits at the bedside of his mother, Azucena, the gypsies sing the Anvil Chorus: Vedi le fosche notturne / "See! The endless sky casts off her sombre nightly garb.."). She is the daughter of the Gypsy burnt by the count and, although old, still nurses her vengeance. (Aria: Stride la vampa / "The flames are roaring!"). The Gypsies break camp while Azucena confesses to Manrico that after stealing him she had intended to burn the count's little son, but had thrown 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 purpose.
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
(Chorus: Or co' dadi ma fra poco / "Now we play at dice") Di Luna's soldiers bring in the captured Azucena. She is recognised by Ferrando, and Di Luna sentences her to be burnt.
Scene 2: A chamber in the castle
Leonora and Manrico live only for each other. (Aria, Manrico: Ah si, ben mio coll'essere / "Ah, yes, my love, in being yours"). As they are about to take their marriage vows, Ruiz, Manrico's comrade, reports that Azucena is to be burned at the stake. Manrico rushes to her aid (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
Leonora attempts to free Manrico, who has been captured by Di Luna (Aria: D'amor sull'ali rosee / "On the rosy wings of love"; Chorus & Duet: Miserere / "Lord, thy mercy on this soul"). Leonora begs 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 shed").
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 enters to find Leonora dead in his rival's arms and orders Manrico to be led to execution. Azucena arises and when Di Luna shows her the dead Manrico, she cries in triumph: Egli era tuo fratello! / "He was your brother..You are avenged, oh mother!" At the same time as Azucena, the count screams in despair E vivo ancor! / "And I must live on!".
Enrico Caruso once said that all it takes for successful performance of Il trovatore is the four greatest singers in the world. On many different occasions, this opera and its music have been featured in various forms of popular culture and entertainment. Scenes of comic chaos play out over a performance of Il trovatore in the Marx Brothers's film, A Night at the Opera. Luchino Visconti used a performance of Il trovatore at La Fenice opera house for the opening sequence of his 1954 film Senso. As Manrico sings his battle cry in "Di quella pira", the performance is interrupted by the answering cries of Italian nationalists in the audience. In Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism, Millicent Marcus proposes that Visconti used this operatic paradigm throughout Senso, with parallels between the opera's protagonists, Manrico and Leonora, and the film's protagonists, Ussoni and Livia.
See: Il trovatore discography
- ^ a b Martin, George Whitney, “Verdi Onstage in the United States: Le trouvere”, The Opera Quarterly, Volume 21, Number 2, Spring 2005, pp. 282-302
- ^ Budden, Vol. 2, p.108 and p.111
- ^ Holden (2001), p. 993
- ^ OPERA America's "The Top 20" list of most-performed operas
- ^ List of singers taken from Budden (1984) p. 58
- ^ The plot description is adapted from Melitz (1921) and Osborne (1977)
- ^ Osborne (2007) p. 502
- ^ Grover-Friedlander (2005) p. 33
- ^ Marcus (1986) p. 182
- Budden, Julian: The Operas of Verdi, Volume 2: From Il Trovatore to La Forza del destino, Cassell, 1984.
- Grover-Friedlander, Michal, Vocal Apparitions: The Attraction of Cinema to Opera, Princeton University Press, 2005. ISBN 0691120080
- Holden, Amanda (ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-140-29312-4
- Marcus, Millicent Joy, Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism, Princeton University Press, 1986. ISBN 0691102082
- Melitz, Leo, The Opera Goer's Complete Guide, 1921 version.
- Osborne, Charles, The Complete Operas of Verdi, New York: Da Capo Press, 1977. ISBN 0306800721
- Osborne, Charles, The Opera Lover's Companion, Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN 0300123736