Celebrating the 168th anniversary of “Il trovatore” premiere in Rome in 1853
“Il trovatore” is a favoured albeit difficult opera to perform and part of the “popular trilogy” by Giuseppe Verdi, along with Traviata and Rigoletto. The plot is based on a play by Antonio Garcia Gutierrez which was quite known at the time. The original story was quite complex and filled with bizarre incidents that made it almost unlikely but Verdi seemed to favour these aspects and asked his librettista to emphasise these ingredients in the verses underpinning the music.
In its essential elements the plot turns around the taut relationship between two men, Manrico and the Count, contending one woman, Leonora. Towards the end of the drama it will be revealed that the two men are actually linked more strictly than what would appear on the surface. A second female role, the sorcerer Azucena, was highlighted in the libretto as opposed to the origano plot and is actually one of the most complex and difficult to perform female roles in opera.
The composition of the opera took some years and it was interwoven with other musical projects carried out by Verdi at the same time. Surprisingly enough, the opera was not initially commissioned by a specific opera house but was only taken up by the Teatro dell’Opera of Rome when it was almost completed. Premiered in February 1853 the opera was an immediate success with public, although probably not as much with critics, and was followed by more than 200 performances in the three immediate years in several opera houses.
Inspired by the dynamic plot, Verdi’s music is expressing a sense of imprescindibile movement carried by the events and directed towards the dramatic end where destiny annihilates and rebalances the tensions present at the beginning of the opera. This remains a challenging score to perform for the four main roles that are faced with psychological interpretation and musical dexterity on the very top of the scale.
Below is a video of the beginning of the second act of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Il trovatore with a magnificent and difficult chorus.
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