A story of witchcraft, murder, and vengeance, the plot to Il Trovatore begins in the acts of the parents. A mother is burned at the stake for suspected witchcraft, and avenged by her daughter when she throws the child of her executioner into the fire. The child’s father seeks vengeance for the act and forces his surviving son to devote his life to avenging his brother’s death. The story of how the gypsy died haunts every character of the opera. Once grown, Count di Luna is possessed by his need to avenge the death of his brother. Ferrando, the captain of di Luna’s guard uses the story to keep the men on their guard. Azucena sees the event repeating in every waking moment, in the flicker of the fire, and in the shape of shadows. But only she knows the truth. Possessed by a dark force in that moment, the child she threw into the flame was her own. She raises Count di Luna’s brother as her own child, calling him Manrico. Constantly haunted by her mother’s dying words ‘mi vendica’ (avenge me), Azucena sets in motion a series of events which lead to Manrico’s death.
Leonora finds herself in the middle of this cross-generational family feud. She has fallen in love with a mysterious troubadour who sings of his love at her window, and so rejects the advances of Count di Luna. Manrico and di Luna are destined to oppose each other, first as leaders of opposing factions in the war, and now in the pursuit of Leonora’s heart. Not until the final blow is struck and Manrico dies at di Luna’s order does Azucena reveal that his rival was his brother. Her mother is avenged.
Verdi’s Il Trovatore has some of the most rousing choruses and arias in any of his operas, a plot to rival Game of Thrones, and four very demanding lead roles calling for exceptional singers. It is truly a masterpiece which will enjoy its popularity within the operatic canon for years to come.