Parlando: The COC Blog

9/13/2012

Introduction to Il Trovatore


Il Trovatore

What's it all about?

A story about love, betrayal and a gypsy's long-reaching revenge. Il Trovatore is quintessential Italian Grand Opera with a juicy plot worthy of the genre, part twisted story about violence and revenge, and part tragic love story.

The opera opens with a love triangle centered on Leonora, a beautiful lady-in-waiting. She is adored by both Manrico, the son of a gypsy, and the Conte di Luna, a nobleman, but she only has eyes for Manrico. The jealous Conte di Luna challenges Manrico to a duel to the death for her hand, but it's only Act I so they both survive.

Soon after the duel, Manrico discovers the secret that his gypsy mother Azucena has kept from him. It turns out that Manrico is not actually her son, but is the brother of Conte di Luna, his rival for Leonora's affections. Azucena kidnapped him as a child to avenge the death of her mother by the hands of the Conte di Luna's father, but accidentally killed her own son in the process and raised Manrico as her own. 

With his newfound claim and despite Azucena's protests, Manrico rushes to find Leonora and whisk her away from his brother, triggering a series of events that leaves Azucena's mother avenged and everybody else heartbroken.

Why is it special?

Enrico Caruso once said this about Il Trovatore: "All you need is the four best singers in the world." Due to the complex story, frenetic pacing and powerful arias, it is a demanding opera that requires dedication and boundless talent. Il Trovatore is full of hits from start to finish, containing some of the most recognizable pieces in all of opera. It is considered one of Verdi's greatest operas alongside Rigoletto and La traviata.

Watch Alexander Neef, Chorus Master Sandra Horst and Russell Braun (Conte di Luna) describe why Il Trovatore is so exciting

THE HISTORY

Who was Giuseppe Verdi?

Only one of the most prolific composers of all time! After his breakout hit with Nabucco, Verdi became an operatic workaholic and was responsible for famous operas such as Rigoletto, La traviata, Luisa Miller, Macbeth, Simon Boccanegra, Aida and more. He is arguably the most famous opera composer of all time, although Puccini fans may disagree with that statement.

When did it premiere?

Il Trovatore premiered in Rome on January 19, 1853 and was performed over 229 times by 1856. In Naples alone, the opera was staged 11 times in six theatres for a total of 190 performances. That's a lot of Anvil Chorus. But Verdi didn't only release Il Trovatore that year  March of 1853 marked the debut of La traviata. A full historical background can be read here.

What are the most memorable musical moments?

The Anvil Chorus — Quite possibly one of the most famous opera compositions of all time, this piece was spoofed by Gilbert and Sullivan in The Pirates of Penzance, used in the Marx Brothers films and jazz legend Glenn Miller even recorded his own version. Watch it here.

"Stride la Vampa" — Azucena's painful ballad about a woman burned to death by an angry mob is a touchstone of Il Trovatore that mirrors the tragic circumstances of her life. Listen to it here.

Di quella pira — Just when Manrico is about to exchange vows with Leonora, he's alerted to the fact that Azucena's life is in danger. He plots her rescue while begging Leonora to understand his dilemma. Listen to it here

For more music, visit the listening guide for Il Trovatore



THE PRODUCTION

What will it look like?

With this production, director Charles Roubard, set designer Jean-Noël Lavesvre and costume designer Katia Duflot updated Il Trovatore to the time of composition during the il Risorgimento (the Italian unification), with a focus on elegance and simplicity, allowing the voices to remain the focal point of the opera. The set ranges from monumental to stifling as the protagonists move towards their imprisonment and final doom.

Who is starring in it?

The cast of Il Trovatore is full of international stars, some COC debuts and a few familiar faces.

We're pleased to announce that not only do we have the world-renowned, award-winning tenor Ramón Vargas as our Manrico, but that he has chosen us for his role debut. Vargas last performed with the COC for our 60th anniversary concert in 2009. Read our Artist Basics post about him here

The role of the tragic Leonora belongs to South African soprano Elza van den Heever in her COC debut. She received critical acclaim for her role debut of Leonora at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux and has been described as a great talent with depth, magnetism and charisma. She will also be making her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2013 as Elisabetta in Maria Stuarda.

Elena Manistina also has her COC debut as the fiery gypsy Azucena, reprising the role that she recently performed at the Gran Teatre del Liceu and Opéra national de Bordeaux.

We welcome back COC regular Russell Braun as the lovesick Conte di Luna. Braun appeared twice in the 2011/2012 season at the COC, performing the role of Orestes in Iphigenia in Tauris and Jaufré in Love from Afar.

Rounding out the cast is Dmitry Belosselskiy as Ferrando and Ensemble Studio member Rihab Chaieb as Inez.

Photos: (top) Leonora (Ines Salazar) and Manrico (Vladimir Galouzine); (middle) Azucena (Mzia Nioradze) and Conte di Luna (Robert Hyman); (bottom) Conte di Luna (Robert Hyman). From Opéra de Marseille's production of Il Trovatore, 2003. Photos: Christian Dresse.

Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in 2012/2013 / comments (2) / permalink

Celia de Ita (10/4/2012 12:00:00 AM)
Beautiful opera, pleasure to be in the opera every time we can make it... Ramón Vargas very sweet voice,my favorite in this performance... Russel was not as relieable as I will expected. It is necessary to make voices equally good, as possible, to avoid destroy the harmony of the whole work of art One comment, important for me, after being able to see several productions, I found a little pour the staging: to dark, to simple, with a big "abuse" of the floor for the characters...with any pretext everybody finish lying down on it. I would like to see something more impressive, attractive, even spectacular, and definitely, more creative and aesthetic... I am sure you can improve the performance that this beautiful opera house deserve. The presence of singers of different countries is a big improvement....for me opera is a matter of good voices, without them the rest is decoration.... I value the effort but we need to avoid the chauvinism... Good luck, hoping my comment are useful
Karin MacHardy (10/9/2012 9:19:00 PM)
Bravissimo for Trovatore - MUSICALLY. Fine conducting, great performers. It was wonderful to hear Vargas in this role (heard him many times in Vienna and New York); wonderful artist. Elena Manistina was outstanding as well, a fantastic Azucena. What a voice, what acting. Elza van den Heever as Leonore was a big suprise. Who said this nonsense that Sondra Radvanovsky was the present Verdi queen?? But Elza has to work on her acting (or the director perhaps). Anyway, this was musically the best COC performance I have seen in a long, long time ( they are getting better and better). Russel Brown was the wrong choice for this, his voice is lovely, but not big enough for this opera. Great chorus, and secondary singers too. What a delight. And what a shameful production - this day and age to put on such drab sets and costumes is a CRIME. Hello, wake up!!! want to attract younger people, compete with the MET and TV? But still, thank you for this Trovatore - musically. Karin

Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001