Il trovatore synopsis
Il trovatore synopsis
Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano
First performed: 1853
Twenty years before the events of the opera, the old Count of Luna had two infant sons. When the younger, Don Garzia, mysteriously began to sicken, a gypsy woman, who had once been found lurking by his cradle, was immediately suspected of bewitching him. She was arrested and burned to death. With her dying words she called upon her daughter Azucena to exact revenge. Soon afterwards the boy Garzia disappeared, and the charred remains of a child’s skeleton were found among the ashes of the gypsy’s pyre. But the old Count remained convinced that his younger son had survived and, with his last breath, called upon his heir to search for his brother.
The years have passed. The country is in a state of civil war. The rebel Biscayan forces are ranged against the royalist troops, led by the young Count of Luna.
The action of the opera takes place in northern Spain, in the provinces of Aragon and Biscay.
A guardroom in the royal palace of Aliaferia
It is almost midnight. The soldiers of the watch are weary. Ferrando warns them to keep a look-out for the unknown troubadour whose singing continually interrupts the Count’s nightly watch beneath Leonora’s window. To keep them awake, he agrees to tell his version of the events surrounding Garzia’s disappearance. He is convinced that the old gypsy was a malign sorceress whose protestations of innocence were lies, and that her daughter’s mad vengeance remains to be punished. They superstitiously believe that the gypsy’s spirit still haunts the palace. When midnight strikes, the men scatter in terror.
The palace gardens
Leonora lingers late on her way back to the palace in the hope of seeing the unknown knight with whose valour she fell in love at a tournament before the civil war began. She tells Ines how he has returned as a troubadour singing plaintive songs of love wafted to her by the scented night air. Despite her friend’s warnings she vows to remain true to him, even should it lead to death.
The Count is determined to force himself upon Leonora, but is disturbed by the sounds of his unknown rival’s serenade. Running towards her lover’s voice in the darkness, Leonora blunders into the arms of the Count. Manrico appears, and the Count recognizes him as a condemned traitor in league with the rebel Urgel. Despite Leonora’s protests, the two jealous rivals fight.
A rebel camp in the mountains of Biscay
It is almost dawn. A band of gypsies anticipates another day.
Alerted by news of the recent rebel defeat, Azucena found Manrico left for dead on the battlefield and nursed him back to health. Now she broods by the fire and obsessively relives the scene of her mother’s death.
When the gypsies have departed, Manrico demands to know the full tragic story. Azucena’s version is that her mother was falsely accused of witchcraft by a wicked Count, and condemned to a terrible death. She followed her mother at a distance, her own child on her shoulder, and struggled through the pressing crowds, close enough to hear her dying curse – ‘Avenge my death’ – which has remained with her ever since. She stole the Count’s child from his palace, intending to burn him in the relit embers of her mother’s fire, but, crazed by pity, guilt and horror, murdered her own child instead.
‘Who am I?’ demands Manrico. ‘You are my son,’ Azucena lies, anxiously trying to alter her impassioned story. She cites her maternal care for him as evidence, how she rescued him from the battlefield and tended his wounds. She reproaches Manrico for sparing his rival’s life the night he overpowered him in the duel, only to let himself be wounded by Luna’s men in the subsequent battle. Manrico tries to explain how an inner voice stayed his hand on that occasion, but swears not to spare his rival again.
Ruiz delivers a message that the rebels have captured the stronghold of Castellar, and Manrico is to take charge of its defence. Leonora, believing him dead, is to enter a convent that very evening. Despite Azucena’s protests, Manrico rushes away to rescue his love.
Before the convent of the Holy Cross at Castellar
The Count, enflamed by his scorned passion and believing Manrico dead, is also determined to prevent Leonora from taking the veil. He has planned for his retainers to kidnap her, so that she may be his alone.
Leonora says farewell to Ines before awaiting the nuns. She is surprised by the Count, but his ambush is thwarted by the miraculous appearance of Manrico. His followers disarm the Count, and Manrico abducts Leonora.
The Gypsy’s Son
The Count of Luna’s camp before the walls of Castellar
The Count’s soldiers are relaxing before their planned assault on the rebel position at Castellar. Ferrando promises them rich plunder when they take it. The Count is tormented by the knowledge that Leonora is there with Manrico.
Azucena is found wandering behind the lines, and is brought in for questioning on suspicion of spying. At first, the Count shows some sympathy towards the gypsy, hoping she might have some knowledge of his brother stolen twenty years ago. Only when Ferrando recognizes her as Garzia’s suspected murderess, and Azucena inadvertently calls on the absent Manrico to save his mother, does the Count realize that, through her, he has the power to avenge himself both on his brother’s killer and his hated rival. Azecena is dragged off to be burned.
A room next to the chapel in Castellar
Despite the impending battle, Manrico and Leonora are about to be married. Ruiz reports the capture and imminent burning of Azucena. Manrico confesses to Leonora that it is his mother who is in danger. He abandons his marriage and summons his soldiers to engage in an immediate rescue attempt.
A wing of the Aliaferia palace
The attempt has failed and Manrico has been captured. Ruiz escorts Leonora within the fortress and indicates the tower where Manrico is incarcerated. She is calmly determined. While a solemn ‘Miserere’ is intoned, Manrico’s voice is heard singing a last farewell. Leonora resolves to save him. The Count arrives to supervise the execution of his two prisoners, and is astonished to find Leonora. She offers herself to him in return for Manrico’s release. While the Count arranges Manrico’s release, she swallows poison.
Inside the prison
Manrico tries to comfort Azucena, still tortured by memories of her mother’s fate which now awaits her. She knows she is close to death, and dreams of the mountains of her homeland. Leonora arrives to tell Manrico that he is free to go at once, but she most stay. At first he bitterly reproaches her for betraying their love, but, as the poison takes effect, he realizes the sacrifice she has made for his freedom. When the Count discovers that he has been deceived and that Leonora is dying before his eyes, he orders Manrico’s immediate death. Azucena witnesses it. At last she reveals the truth: ‘Manrico was your brother. You are avenged, mother.’ Luna lives on.
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