• Il Trovatore Synopsis

The Story

Audio tracks are embedded within each activity. A pronunciation guide and "Who's Who" chart can be found here.  

Act I: The Duel Scene 1: Outside the palace of Count di Luna. Ferrando, an officer in Count di Luna’s army, is on night duty outside the Count’s apartments. He tells his men that the Count is in love with a noblewoman, Leonora, and fears his rival for her affections, a troubadour who sings nightly in the palace gardens.

At the soldiers’ request, Ferrando then relates a kind of ghost story—the sadtale of the Count’s younger brother. As an infant, the boy was believed to have been cursed by a gypsy witch (see the sidebar on page 4: The Romani People). The woman was pursued and burned at the stake. In retaliation, her daughter kidnapped the baby. Shortly thereafter, a child’s burnt body was found at the site where the witch had burned to death. The Count’s brother was never seen again. Di Luna has sworn to bring the gypsy’s daughter to justice (Tracks 31–35).

Scene 2: In the palace gardens. Leonora, together with her confidante Ines, is waiting for the troubadour to appear. She tells Ines the story of her previous meeting, long ago, with the mysterious man. After civil war broke out between the kingdom and rebel forces, she never saw him again—until one day his voice rang out from the garden below her balcony (Tracks 1–3).

The story disturbs Ines, who begs Leonora to forget the man (Track 4). Leonora replies that she is unable to. If she can’t live for him, she will die for him (Tracks 5–7). They return to Leonora’s chambers.

Count di Luna appears, intending to visit Leonora in her apartment. He hesitates when he hears the troubadour’s song in the distance. Leonora has heard it, too, and rushes in. In the dark, she mistakes the Count for the troubadour and greets him affectionately. When she realizes her mistake, the enraged Count demands that the troubadour identify himself. He is Manrico, commander of the rebel army. The Count challenges him to a duel, in spite of Leonora’s pleadings.

Act II: The Gypsy Scene 1: In the mountains of Biscay. Several weeks have passed. At dawn, a band of gypsies work at their anvils (Tracks 28–30). Among them are Manrico and his mother, Azucena. Azucena tells of a woman who was burned at the stake (Track 19). She cries out, “Avenge me! Avenge me!”—a phrase Manrico has heard before, but never understood (Track 20).

When the rest of the group head off, Manrico insists that Azucena at last tell him her story (Tracks 21–26). It is the story we heard from Ferrando in Act I, but now we learn that the woman burned at the stake was Manrico’s grandmother, Azucena’s mother. Azucena herself was the daughter who kidnapped the count’s baby brother. In the confusion of the moment, Azucena now reveals, she threw her own baby into the flames by mistake. So the count’s younger brother survived.

Manrico is confused. Is it possible he is not Azucena’s son? She replies that he is her son. She claims to have misspoken, overwhelmed by the horrible memory. She reminds him that she has always cared for him and loved him as a mother (Track 27).

Manrico recalls his fierce duel with Count di Luna. On the verge of victory, he could not bring himself to deal the fatal blow.

A messenger arrives, bearing two reports. The rebels have captured the stronghold of Castellor; Manrico is to hurry there and  take charge. And Leonora, believing Manrico killed in battle, has decided to enter a convent. In spite of his mother’s pleas, Manrico rushes off to find Leonora.

Scene 2: At the convent. Count di Luna, Ferrando, and their soldiers quietly enter the convent. Believing Manrico dead, the count, too, intends to stop Leonora from taking her vows. Not even God, he vows, can steal his beloved from him (Tracks 8–12).

Leonora enters and the Count emerges from hiding. Manrico appears. “Have you come down from heaven?” Leonora asks, “or am I in heaven with you?” Again the Count challenges Manrico, but his own soldiers convince him to stand down. Manrico and Leonora depart, leaving the Count and his men behind.

Act III: The Gypsy’s Son Scene 1: The camp of the Count’s army. Ferrando and his soldiers prepare for battle. The Count is still obsessed with Leonora. Ferrando brings news that their scouts have captured a gypsy woman—Azucena. The Count interrogates her, asking whether she knows of a child kidnapped years before. He reveals himself as the kidnapped child’s brother and realizes that Azucena was the kidnapper—and killer. His men prepare to burn her at the stake.

Scene 2: In the fortress of Castellor. Manrico assures Leonora that the rebels will hold off the Count’s army and that they can get married at last (Tracks 13–14). Ruiz, Manrico’s aide-de-camp, appears with news that an old gypsy woman has been captured by the Count’s men and is about to be burned. Manrico tells Leonora that the gypsy is his mother. He leads his men to rescue her (Tracks 15–18).

Act IV: The Execution Scene 1: The Count’s palace. Manrico has been captured by di Luna’s forces. Leonora and Ruiz arrive, hoping to rescue him. Ruiz departs. Leonora, alone, hears Manrico singing her a farewell from his cell in the tower. She vows to save his life or die (Tracks 37–42).

The Count enters and finds Leonora. She pleads for mercy, but the Count’s anger is inflamed by her love for the troubadour. He seeks vengeance. Leonora offers herself in exchange for Manrico’s life. When di Luna accepts, she secretly swallows poison. They head off toward the tower prison.

Scene 2: The prison. Manrico and Azucena share a cell. Fearing that she will be burned at the stake as well, Azucena again recounts her mother’s death. Manrico convinces her to rest. Leonora arrives, announcing that she has come to save Manrico, but he won’t flee without her. He believes she has betrayed him by giving herself to the Count—until he realizes what she really has done and that she is dying. The Count enters and, finding Leonora at death’s door, sends Manrico off to be executed. Azucena reveals to the horrified Count that Manrico was his missing brother. Her mother is avenged.