Premiered: January 19, 1853 - Teatro Apollo, Rome, Italy
The Setting of Il Trovatore
Verdi's Il Trovatore takes place in a 15th century Spanish town.
Within the guardroom at the Palace of Aragon, Captain Ferrando orders his men to keep watch for Manrico, the troubadour and enemy of Count di Luna. di Luna paces impatiently outside underneath Lady Leonora's bedroom waiting for Manrico to arrive. di Luna is in love with Leonora, but she is in love with Manrico. In an effort to keep the guards from falling asleep, Ferrando tells a story of the Count's history. The Count had a younger brother who was made weak and ill by a gypsy woman many years ago. For that, the king had sentenced her to death and she was burned at the stake. As she burned, she commanded her daughter, Azucena, to avenge her. Azucena kidnapped the baby, and threw him into the pit of fire to burn along side her mother. Though infant bones were found in the ashes, the king refused to believe his son's death. On his death bed many years later, he commanded his son, di Luna, to seek Azucena.
Inside Leonora's room, she confides in her friend, Ines, and tells her she loves Manrico. Though Ines expresses reservations, Leonora brushes them away. Leonora hear's Manrico's voice outside in the distance and runs outside to greet him. In the dark, she mistakes di Luna for Manrico, but luckily Manrico soon appears. She quickly runs to his side to embrace him. Jealously, di Luna calls for a duel. Manrico accepts, even though Leonora does all she can to stop the duel. The two men run off into the night to fight.
In the early dawn light, Manrico sits next to his mother's bedside within the gypsy camp, and the gypsies are heard singing the famous anvil chorus. Still remembering her mother's plea for vengeance, Azucena tells Manrico a life changing story. She tells them that when she sought the king's child, she mistakenly grabbed her own baby threw him into the pit of fire. Even though Manrico realizes he is not her biological son, he swears to her that his love for her is unchanged. After all, she has always been loving and faithful to him. He swears to his mother that he will help her seek vengeance, but he was unable to kill di Luna. Even though Manrico won the duel, he tells her that he felt a strange power come over him, stopping him from taking di Luna's life. Moments later, a messenger arrives bringing news that Leonora, believing that Manrico is dead, has entered into a convent. Determined to stop her, he makes haste to Leonora despite his mother's objections.
Outside of the convent, di Luna has devised a plan to kidnap Leonora. His passion for her burns even more intensely than before. As Leonora and the nuns make their way inside, di Luna sets his plan in motion. However, Manrico arrives just in time to save Leonora, and the two quickly set out hand in hand, escaping di Luna and his men.
di Luna has set up camp not far from where Manrico and Leonora are staying. Ferrando brings in Azucena after finding her wondering outside. She claims to be looking for her lost son. When di Luna reveals his identity, Azucena is taken aback. In that moment, Ferrando recognizes her as the murderer of di Luna's younger brother. di Luna orders her to be burnt at the stake.
Manrico and Leornora are happily in love and are about to give their hands to one another in marriage. As they say their vows, Manrico's friend, Ruiz, rushes in to tell them that Azucena was captured and sentenced to burn at the stake. Manrico stops everything and rushes to her aid.
When Manrico arrived outside of his mother's prison, he too was captured. Ruiz brings Leonora to the prison where she vows to save him. Not long after, di Luna arrives. Wanting nothing more than her lover's freedom, she pledges herself to di Luna, but secretly, she swallows poison. She will not let di Luna have her.
Within their cell, Manrico comforts his aging mother, who has now begun to fall asleep, dreaming of sweeter days. Leonora arrives and urges Manrico to escape. However, after learning how she has managed to do this, he feels betrayed and refuses to leave his cell. Within moments, the effects of the poison begin to show and Leonora falls into Manrico's arms. She tells Manrico that she'd rather die in his arms than to be married to another man. di Luna walks into the cell moments after Leonora dies and sees her lifeless body in Manrico's arms. He orders his men to execute Manrico. Azucena arises when she sees the execution carried through and shouts that her mother has been avenged, for di Luna has killed his own brother!