Before the season started, Central City Opera’s Education and Community Engagement department (ECE) asked leading soprano Alexandra Loutsion, (Leonora in Il trovatore) to explain the characters and plot of Il trovatore from an inside perspective.
“So, you’re singing Il trovatore this summer! I’ve heard it’s a crazy story! Can you tell me about the characters?”
It is a question that has haunted me from the day I cracked this score. How to explain this incredibly complex and interwoven plot to people in as concise a manner as possible? I have attempted to break up the plot into character relationships and create a little diagram to help all of us (yes, me included!) better understand this incredibly rich and confusing story.
Our story centers around four main characters:
Manrico (tenor): A troubador, son of the gypsy Azucena who has risen in status through battle to be a knight for Urgel (a contender for the Spanish throne & enemy of the crown), mortal enemy of Count di Luna
Azucena (mezzo-soprano): A gypsy, mother to Manrico who wishes to seek revenge for the murder of her mother by Count di Luna’s father
Leonora (soprano): A lady in waiting for Catherine of Aragon in love with Manrico whom she met before the civil war broke
Count di Luna (baritone): Head of the royalists, mortal enemy of Manrico
The setting is medieval Spain.
To better understand how the characters interact with one another, some researches have broken up the opera into three themes: War, Love, and Revenge. Note: For additional information on these themes, see the Festival Program Book, or if you prefer to learn more about them via Alex’s diagrams now, click here.
Out of these three themes, two plots emerge weave in and out of each other:
Plot one: Manrico, Azucena, Count di Luna
This plot contains both the war and revenge theme, but also is centered around the actions of immigrants and the lower class.
Plot two: Manrico, Leonora, Count di Luna
This plot contains both the war and love theme, but also is centered around the actions of native Spaniards and the upper class.
The plots themselves could stand — Leonora and Azucena never meet until the very end of the opera, and even then, they never interact. While Count di Luna is involved in both plots, Manrico is the connecting force: he is both immigrant/lower class (raised by a gypsy, and has lived his life as an outsider) BUT also native Spaniard/upper class (he is the son of the Old Count which he never finds out, but is revealed to us at the very end). This is why I believe the opera is entitled Il trovatore: we step into Manrico’s world and see him struggling through both class structures. The twist lies that in the end, Azucena wins the day.
So, the next time someone asks you “Hey, what’s Il trovatore about?” I hope you will arm yourself with this little explanation. We are looking forward to presenting this drop dead gorgeous music and crazy story full of intrigue and fantasy, and most importantly, we look forward to seeing you on the mountain this summer!