Listen to Il trovatore

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For this hot-blooded tale of love, jealousy, and retribution, Verdi created music that truly bursts with excitement! And what wonderful characters—bold and courageous Manrico, his beloved Leonora, the vengeful Count di Luna, and the wild, obsessed gypsy Azucena. Each has thrilling music to sing as the drama unfolds in the smoldering atmosphere of darkly mysterious 15th-century Spain. The “Anvil Chorus,” Leonora’s “Miserere,” Manrico’s stirring call to arms—these are just a few of the fabulous highlights that make Il trovatore a feast of sumptuous singing.

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Act One

Ferrando, captain of the guard, rouses the soldiers resting in the guardroom. They are under orders of Count di Luna to keep watch for a troubadour who serenades Leonora, the queen’s lady-in-waiting, with whom the Count is also in love. Ferrando keeps the men awake by telling them the story of a baby, the Count’s brother: many years before, a gypsy had been burned at the stake for supposedly casting a spell on the baby. In revenge, the gypsy’s daughter stole the child. Later an infant’s bones – presumably those of the Count’s brother – were found in the ashes. Legend has it that the gypsy’s ghost still haunts the castle.

As she awaits the troubadour, Leonora tells her companion Inez how she fell in love with an unknown knight. When civil war broke out, she heard nothing from him until one evening when she heard his voice serenading her. Faced with Inez’s disapproval, Leonora nevertheless swears that she would die for the troubadour. The Count is about to force his attention on Leonora, but the troubadour’s voice stops him. Leonora mistakes the Count for her lover and is, in turn, accused by the troubadour of infidelity. Challenged, Manrico identifies himself. The Count’s jealousy boils over at a rebel leader daring to enter the royal palace. The two men rush off to fight a duel.

Act two

As dawn breaks over the gypsy camp, the usual work goes on. Azucena broods on her mother’s death. Manrico, who is recovering from wounds received in battle, fails to understand his mother’s words. Once alone with Azucena, he asks her to tell him the old story. She ironically comments that his ambition had led him far away so that he never learned the story of his grandmother’s death. Telling the story, her emotions overpower her. Azucena lets slip that, after stealing the Count’s child, in her delirium she threw her own child into the flames. When Manrico asks who he really is, Azucena insists that she was hallucinating and that he is indeed her son. She wonders why he spared the Count when given the chance to kill him in their duel. Manrico answers that a voice from heaven restrained him. Azucena orders him to swear to avenge her. A messenger informs Manrico that he must take command of Castellor, adding that Leonora, assuming he is dead, will enter a convent that evening. Azucena pleads with him not to leave, but he ignores her and rushes away.

The Count arrives at the convent with his men. Tormented by his love for Leonora, he determines to abduct her before she can take her vows. Manrico arrives in time to stop him.

Act three

The Count’s soldiers are relaxing before the assault on Castellor. A patron brings in a gypsy suspected of spying. Azucena protests that she is only searching for her son, who has abandoned her. When she says that she comes from Biscay, the Count questions her about his brother’s disappearance. Ferrando recognizes her, and when she calls out to the absent Manrico for help, the Count exults at his chance for revenge. Azucena curses the Count before she is dragged away.

Manrico, about to be married to Leonora, assures her that love will unite them even in death should he be killed in the upcoming battle. When Ruiz brings news of Azucena’s capture and ensuing execution, Manrico vows to save her.

Act four

Ruiz accompanies Leonora to the Count’s castle, where Manrico has been imprisoned following his failed rescue attempt. Determined to save his life, Leonora hopes that thoughts of her love will comfort Manrico in his despair. Hearing the monks’ prayer for the condemned and Manrico’s voice raised in farewell, Leonora again swears to save Manrico, even if she must die. When the Count appears, lamenting Leonora’s disappearance, she pleads for Manrico’s life, offering herself to the Count instead. While he gives orders to free the prisoner, she takes poison.

 Awaiting execution, Azucena is troubled by visions of her mother’s death. She and Manrico long to return to their life in the mountains. Azucena has just fallen asleep when Leonora appears, telling Manrico he is free. When she refuses to leave with him, he accuses her of giving herself to his rival. As he curses her, Leonora begins to feel faint. Manrico is horrified when she reveals her sacrifice for him. Witnessing her death, the Count orders Manrico’s immediate execution. Manrico’s farewell awakens Azucena. She turns on the Count, revealing that he has killed his own brother before crying out, “You are avenged, oh, mother!”

Meet the artists

* Lyric Opera debut
† Ryan Opera Center alumni
‡ Current Member, Ryan Opera Center

Program book

Go inside this production of Il trovatore with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.

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Lyric production revival of Verdi’s Il trovatore generously made possible by

Henry and Gilda Buchbinder Family Foundation

Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation

A coproduction of Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Metropolitan Opera, and the San Francisco Opera Association.

Lyric Audio Streaming is made possible through a generous gift from

Robert F. Finke
in Memory of Carol Keenan

Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg, Lyric Opera of Chicago