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Verdi's Gloriously Over-The-Top Opera Il Trovatore

  I've been listening to a recording of  Giuseppe  Verdi's melodious blood-and-thunder operatic masterpiece Il  Trovatore (The Troubador )  lately which I borrowed from my local library , so I thought I might tell you something about this deservedly popular opera I you are unfamiliar with it ,and I hope it will inspire you to try it out on CD or DVD.

  Il Trovatore was premiered in Italy in the early 1850s , and with its unforgettable melodies, including the world-famous "anvil chorus", which you've no doubt heard even if you don't know the opera, sweeping drama and
opportunities for singers to chew the scenery , it became an instant success all over Europe , and soon America,and has never been out of the repertoire of the world's opera houses since. Many of the world's greatest opera singers ,among them Enrico Caruso ,Placido  Domingo, Leontyne Price ,Joan Sutherland,
Maria Callas, Mario Del Monaco , Leonard Warren, Renata Tebaldi , Giuseppe Di Stefano, to name only a handful , have been internationally acclaimed for their portrayals of the leading characters .

  But with its somewhat confusing plot and melodramatic situations, the opera has also been affectionately
spoofed at times.  The classic Marx brothers movie  "A Night At The Opera" uses a performance of Il Trovatore as a backdrop for its zany story.

   Il Trovatore takes place in medieval Spain in a time of civil war between rival Spanish factions .  The characters include  the tenor hero Manrico , a knight and troubador who has been raised by Gypsies , his beloved  Leonora , a noblewoman who is lady in waiting to the queen of Aragon, a soprano,  the Gypsy
woman Azucena (Ad-zu-chay-na) ,supposedly Manrico's mother, the villain of the piece, the Count Di Luna ,baritone, and his captain Ferrando ,a bass. 

   The Count is in love with Leonora, and hopes to marry her, but she is in love with a mysterious knight
and troubador  whom she had crowned the victor in a tournament.  Di Luna is consumed with jealousy
at the love between the two, and hopes to  have him killed.

   Many years before the curtain opens,  the Count's late father ,the elder Count Di Luna,  had just celebrated  the birth of his second son, brother of the present Count.  But a hideous old Gypsy woman had been seen near the infant's cradle , and  the baby boy became ill .  The old woman was believed to have put an evil spell on the baby , and was promptly burned at the stake.

   But her daughter Azucena,  horrified by her mother's execution ,  had  secretly abducted the baby,
intending to throw it onto the pyre in revenge . But in her mad rage and confusion , she accidentally threw her own baby son onto the flames !  However, she took the count's infant son and  brought him up as her won son , whom she named Manrico .  He does not know of this fact until well into the opera when Azucena tells him the whole horrible story .

   In addition , at the time the opera opens, the Count and Manrico are on opposite sides of the rival
factions  in the Aragonese civil war.  Manrico and the Count fight a duel offstage , but even though the count is vanquished, Manrico spares his life .   Leonora, believe her beloved to have been killed, decides to spend the rest of her life in a convent , but the Count  tries to abduct her as she is about to do this.

   However, Manrico and his soldiers  appear at the last minute and  and carry Leonora off so that the two can finally be married .  Soon after ,  the Count's men  find Azucena,who has been prowling around their camp for some reason , and she is recognized as the woman who abducted the Count's younger brother .

   As Leonora and Manrico are about to be married , news comes in that  Azucena has been captured and the Count intends to have her executed .  Manrico rushes off to save  his supposed mother ,singing the
thrilling aria  "Di Quella  Pira",  a real show-stopper .

   But in the last act ,  Manrico and leonore have been captured in the attempt , and the Count orders
Azucena and Manrico to be executed.  Leonora is  devastated , and determined to save Manrico at any cost .  The monks sing a gloomy  funeral  chant  for the condemned , as Leonora  grieves for her beloved.

   At the last minute , Leonore pleads with the Count to spare his life, and offers to give herself  to him
to have his way with her if he will do this.  But she  secretly  takes poison from  her ring , determined 
that the Count will never have her .  She goes to Manrico ,telling him that she  has offered herself to the
Count to spare his life, but he  curses her . As she dies,  the Count orders  Manrico and Azucena to be brought out to be beheaded .  Just after the axe falls, she reveals to the Count that he has just killed his
own brother  !   The Count has been foiled , and he  realizes that he has lost everything !

   Whew ! What an over-the -top  melodramatic story !  But with  singers who are convincing actors ,
you won't find anything remotely silly about the opera, and Verdi's gutsy , sweeping and  gloriously 
melodious music , you'll be caught up in the story .

  There ar e a number of DVDs of live performances from the Metropolitan opera and La Scala in Milan, etc, and quite a few excellent recordings with  such great tenors as Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti,
Mario Del Monaco ,  Richard Tucker Giuseppe Di Stefano and others as Manrico ,  Leontyne Price, Maria Callas,
Renata Tebaldi , as Leonora,  Sherill Milnes,  Thomas Hampson,  Leonard Warren, and others as the Count , to name only a handful .  

Posted: Aug 05 2011, 05:55 PM by the horn | with no comments
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