Major Operas | Il trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi | High Romantic

The Troubadour

Of all Verdi’s operas, Il trovatore (‘The Troubadour’) provides the fullest panorama of melodies, each of them memorable in its own right. Il trovatore did not have the subtle characterization of Rigoletto, and suffered from an all but impenetrable plot, but nonetheless became as frequently played. The Miserere (meaning ‘Have Mercy’) sung by a chorus of monks in Act IV was for some time the best-loved number in any opera.

Il trovatore was one of Verdi’s speediest creations: he wrote its four acts in only 30 days, between 1 and 29 November 1852. Less than two months later, on 19 January 1853, the premiere took place in at the Teatro Apollo in Rome followed by New York and London in 1855. The menacing mezzo-soprano role of the gypsy Azucena was a new departure for singers in Italian opera and may have been influenced by a similar character in Meyerbeer’s Le prophète (‘The Prophet’, 1849), which premiered in Paris.

Composed: 1851–52
Premiered: 1853, Rome
Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano and Leone Emanuele Bardare, after Antonio García Gutiérrez

Act I

Count di Luna waits beneath the window of his love Leonora. Meanwhile, Ferrando, the captain of the guard, entertains the soldiers by telling them of how the count’s brother was bewitched as a child by a gypsy, who was subsequently burned at the stake. Her daughter, to avenge her death, kidnapped the child and is thought to have killed him. Leonora reveals to her confidante Inez that she has fallen in love with an unknown troubadour, who serenaded her at a tournament. The count arrives to court Leonora and the troubadour, Manrico, also arrives. He serenades Leonora and she confuses him with the count in the darkness. When she realizes her mistake, she declares her love for Manrico. Manrico and the count threaten to kill each other.

Act II

In a camp, the gypsies go about their work. Azucena, the daughter in the tale related by Ferrando, recalls her mother’s dying call for vengeance and laments accidentally throwing her own son into the flames. Manrico, who has been brought up as Azucena’s son, overhears. She encourages him to exact revenge on the count, but Manrico relates that, during battle, he was about to kill him in a duel, but something held him back. He agrees to help his ‘mother’ to avenge her mother’s death. A messenger brings the news that Leonora, thinking Manrico dead, is entering a convent. Ignoring Azucena’s pleas, Manrico leaves.

Under the count’s orders, Ferrando and his men wait by the convent to abduct Leonora. When she appears, Manrico arrives and a fight breaks out. Leonora and Manrico escape together.


In the count’s camp, near where Manrico has taken Leonora, the soldiers prepare to besiege the castle; the count laments the loss of his love. Ferrando announces that a gypsy woman has been taken prisoner; Azucena is brought in, explaining that she is looking for her son. On...

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