Il trovatore, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi was known for his love of dramatic twists and shocking turns of fate. Il trovatore is one of his most tragic and rollercoaster-like operas, and it naturally features the Maestro’s suitably dramatic and powerful music. The libretto was the final work of Salvatore Cammarano before his death. The renowned poet Leone Emanuele Bardare finished the text and added some of his trademark lyricism to it. Il trovatore (or The Troubadour) was premiered on 19 January 1853 at the Teatro Apollo in Rome where it captured audiences and critics instantly, shooting to lasting operatic fame. Venice’s Gran Teatro La Fenice delivers a stunning revival.
Verdi and Cammarano found their inspiration in the Spanish play El Trovador by Antonio García Gutiérrez. The composer welcomed the creative challenge of adapting his score to the hot Gypsy rhythms and passions that abound throughout the story, while the librettist struggled with unifying the original story’s numerous plot lines into a coherent opera script. Despite the difficulties, both men completed their tasks splendidly and produced a stage work of undying popularity and appeal.
The plot of Il trovatore starts with the love story between Manrico, a Gypsy troubadour and revolutionary, and Leonora, a high-class lady who is enamoured with him, in large part thanks to his passionate songs. Manrico’s mother, Azucena, and her long-time rivalry with Count di Luna form the crucial secondary plot line. The two lovers’ happiness is marred by Manrico’s rebellious activities, while the old lady’s own motivations and secrets pepper the narrative with ominous forebodings. When the two storylines eventually cross, a tragedy from Azucena’s past, Leonora’s selfless sacrifice and the Count’s wrath drive Il trovatore to a bombastic and shocking finale.
To complement the opera’s dramatic plot, Verdi turns his score into a powerful storytelling device. Each of the major characters gets moments to shine and to reveal inner worlds and motivations, such as in Manrico’s gentle ‘Ah si, ben mio’ and his much more forceful ‘Di quella pira’.