Il Trovatore, Opera by G. Verdi
On paper, Il Trovatore (The Troubadour), Giuseppe Verdi’s follow-up to Rigoletto, seems a very different work but, in many ways, it is a true sequel to its predecessor. Each opera features a prolicide, the killing of one’s own child; Rigoletto ends with a father’s plotting accidentally resulting in the death of his daughter whereas the dramatic power of Il Trovatore hinges on a mother unintentionally slaying her infant son.
Caught up in the delirium caused by her mother’s immolation at the stake for a crime she did not commit, the gypsy Azucena throws her own baby onto the fire rather than Manrico, the child of her mother’s executioner.
Unaware of his history, Manrico, the troubadour of the title, and his brother, the Count di Luna, duel for the affections of Leonora who is in love with Manrico alone. While both men survive the contest, it is di Luna who gains the upper hand, imprisoning both Manrico and Azucena. Leonora offers herself up to the Count in exchange for their freedom. However, it is a false bargain. She dies, having taken poison. As an enraged count orders that Manrico be beheaded, Azucena finally takes her revenge as she reveals to di Luna who Manrico really is.
The fact that Verdi’s librettist, Salvatore Cammarano, failed to follow the composer’s intentions for Il Trovatore and wrote a format that was faithful to operatic convention, is for audiences today something of a blessing in disguise. Il Trovatore’s set pieces, with stand¬out moments for all the principals in the drama, are quite simply spectacular while, with the famous Anvil Chorus, Verdi still had time to write a melody immediately familiar even to those who have never before seen one of his operas.
First performed at the Teatro Apollo in Rome on 19 January 1853, Il Trovatore is now set to fill the auditorium of the Vienna State Opera with its wonderful music.