Wildly popular when it was first performed in 1853, Il Trovatore continues to drive opera lovers crazy.
Verdis big Spanish tragedy stirred audiences all over Europe and still moves people to tears. A year after its Rome premiere, Trovatore opened in Paris and then London. At the Met in turn-of-the century New York, Enrico Caruso sang the lead role of Manrico, the troubadour of the title. Again and again, audiences have thrilled at Verdis soaring arias. At the end, women weep and grown men have been known to dab an eye. All this despite one of the most incoherent plots in opera history.
Whats the reason?
Dramatically powerful music. Despite a pitiful plot and incomprehensible back story, there are many, many musical moments that will stay with you long after you leave the theater.
Saturday, the Metropolitan Opera matinee in New York is sold out. But you can see Il Trovatore right here in Durango at the Storyteller Stadium 9 adjacent to the Durango Mall. The Met: Live in HD simulcast will run three hours and 15 minutes. Sung in Italian, the libretto will be delivered in English subtitles, but dont count on the subtitles to clear up the muddle.
Verdi based his opera on a contemporary Spanish play, so blame the playwright Antonio Garcia Gutiérrez for the silly plot. Gutiérrezs 1836 potboiler was called El Trovador and told a tale of a love triangle amid war. There are several subplots, and Ive mentioned the troublesome back story. It involves an aging count, a mad gypsy, her avenging daughter and a trio of infants who suffer the consequences of all that madness. Set in the 15th century Kingdom of Aragon, Verdis opera keeps to the plays loopy outline.
Be prepared, youll hear the back story twice. The first version appears in Act I, told by Ferrando (bass Stefan Kocán). Another version will be sung by Azucena, the unstable gypsy daughter. Old Count di Luna ordered Azucenas mother burned at the stake for her threatening behavior. The mothers last words, Avenge me, set one of the subplots in motion.
Long ago when Il Trovatore was performed in English, the title was: The Gypsys Revenge. Thats as good a key to the action as any. So well leave it at that.
For all the spectacular music, this opera has spawned more than its share of comic parodies. If youre old enough, you may have seen skits by Groucho Marx or Danny Kaye. Saturday Night Live caught the fever, too. All that aside, its the music that triumphs.
Tenor Marcelo Alvarez will sing the title role. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky will sing Leonora, and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky plays the handsome and villainous young Count di Luna. Mezzo Dolora Zajick gets to sing the wickedly colorful role of Azucena. The cast is huge, the sets are grand, the troubadour will sing his beautiful serenade, theres a duel, a gypsy scene in the mountains, the Anvil Chorus and lots of palace intrigue. Expect a melodramatic ending with music that could melt all the candles in Spain and your heart.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at email@example.com.