Israeli Opera: Il Trovatore

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Il Trovatore/Photo: Michael Poehn

Fiery passions and a burning desire for revenge turn up the heat in Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore, which will be performed at the Israeli Opera in a production from the Vienna Staatsoper, directed by Daniele Abbado, and conducted by Giuliano Carella. Performances will take place from June 16 – 28, 2023.

Abbado has set the opera at the time of the Spanish Civil War, in the late 1930s, framing the opera’s rivalry and hatred between two brothers (who are unaware of their connection) as comparable to a civil war. The Count di Luna is in love with Leonora, but she is in love with a mysterious stranger, a troubadour who serenades her by night. The Count has ordered a guard to watch for and capture the troubadour. While they stand guard, Ferrando, captain of the guard, passes the time by telling them a strange story from the Count’s family lore. Believing that his brother Garzia, an infant at the time, was bewitched by a gypsy, the family had the gypsy burnt at the stake. Azucena, the gypsy’s daughter, swore that she would avenge her mother. On the day of the gypsy’s execution, the baby Garzia disappeared, and an infant’s remains were found in the ashes.

As it turns out, the troubadour in love with Leonora is Manrico, Azucena’s son, which is not suspicious at all. Mistakes are made, a duel is fought, Manrico spares the Count’s life, but access to information being what it was in those days, Leonora, believing Manrico dead, intends to enter a convent. The Count plans to ambush Leonora and prevent her from becoming a nun, but Manrico surprises them all, and does not let the Count take her away. Leonora and Manrico are about to wed, and if this were a comedy, that would be the final vignette. Unfortunately for the protagonists, Manrico is informed that the Count has captured Azucena, and he rushes off to save his mother.

The rescue does not go well. The Count has Manrico thrown into a dungeon. Leonora bargains for the life of her beloved and promises the Count that she will marry him if he releases Manrico. Manrico feels betrayed by Leonora’s compromise, yet little do both men know that she has been true to her heart all along, and has taken poison, preferring death to marriage to the Count. When he finds Leonora dead, the Count commands Azucena brought forth to witness the execution of her son Manrico. But when the Count kills Manrico, Azucena announces that Manrico is really Garzia, the Count has killed his own brother, and at last she has avenged her mother’s death.

Il Trovatore premiered in Rome, in 1853, following a process that was not without its complications. The libretto is based on the play El trovador by Antonio Garcia Gutiérrez from 1836. It is thought that the play was translated from Spanish by Giuseppina Strepponi (1850 – 1897), a soprano opera singer and Verdi’s second wife. Verdi approached Salvadore Cammarano to write the libretto, yet I’ve read that the collaboration did not go smoothly, due to Cammarano’s tending towards a more conventional approach, while Verdi wanted to explore possibilities. Work on the opera had begun independently, without a commission, but eventually the Rome Opera expressed an interest and the premiere was set for the Spring of 1853. Sadly, Cammarano died in the summer of 1852, and Verdi turned to a young librettist, Leone Emanuele Bardare, to complete the libretto. Il Trovatore remains one of Verdi’s most popular operas to this day, with many beloved arias.

This production marks Daniele Abbado’s directing debut at the Israeli Opera. Giuliano Carrela has conducted several operas at the Israeli Opera, including Aida (2022), Simon Boccanegra (2019), and La fanciulla del West (2004). Soloists in this production are: Leonardo Caimi and Viktor Antipenko alternate as Manrico, Marta Torbidoni and Maritina Tampakopoulos alternate as Leonora, Sebastian Catana and Ionut Pascu alternate as Count di Luna, and Veronica Simeoni and Shay Bloch alternate as Azucena.

Il Trovatore will be performed at the Israeli Opera from June 16 – 28, 2023. A 30-minute introductory lecture takes place an hour before each show, admission is free for ticket holders. Tickets may be ordered online from the Israeli Opera website or call 03-692777.