Top Three Show-Stopping Moments in Verdi's Il Trovatore

Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Verdi's Il Trovatore is notorious for its complicated — even incomprehensible — plot. F. Paul Driscoll, the editor-in-chief of Opera News, reminds us that “it’s a plot that was satirized by Gilbert and Sullivan in HMS Pinafore.” After all it’s opera, right? So what if the plot is a little bit far-fetched? The music is absolutely glorious. There are hit tunes throughout and memorable scenes galore. And after over 150 years, the opera remains one of the most performed in the world.

In this edition of Opera in Brief, F. Paul shares three of his favorite show-stopping moments from Verdi’s masterpiece:

1. The Scene: “Stride la vampa”

It's the first huge show stopper of the night. The gypsy Azucena tells the story of her mother who was accused of being a sorceress, condemned to death and burned alive. This aria helps set up the revenge plot that moves the action for the rest of the show. Verdi creates the scene in front of our eyes with this narrative. You sense the mounting anger and the fact that this woman is obsessed with avenging her mother.

The Singer:

Fedora Barbieri was probably the leading Verdi mezzo soprano of her day. It’s a little chesty and a little fast, but that’s the way to stop the show!

2. The Scene: The “Miserere”

The leading soprano role is Leonora, who is a Spanish noblewoman. She is loved by the title character – the mysterious troubadour Manrico – and she’s also loved by the Count di Luna. She has divine music. It requires a great deal of poise, technical facility and what we call profile in a voice. It’s not a question of volume; it’s a question of having a voice which has a strong identifiable sound.

The Singer:

Leontyne Price recorded this particular version in 1959 when she was sweeping through all of the major opera houses of Europe and had not yet made her Met debut. She eventually did make her Met debut in this role in 1961. Legend has it that the ovation was 40 minutes long.

3. The Scene: “Di quella pira”

It's Manrico’s song about going out to avenge his mother. This is a sensational moment with chorus, high C’s, swords flashing and legs in tights!

The Singer:

Franco Corelli was an Italian tenor and he made his debut at the Met the same night that Leontyne Price did in Il Trovatore. Manrico was his signature role.

Guests:

F. Paul Driscoll

Produced by:

Margaret Kelley and Midge Woolsey

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Comments [3]

I don't know why it's limited to 3. Il Balen & the cabaletta that follows is very exciting, especially if the baritone is a full-voiced Verdian.I would even dare to place it before Stride la Vampa.

Oct. 13 2012 05:22 AM
Jamie from Brooklyn

In my experience, committed and skilled singing actors can sell the plot, implausible as it may be. The right Azucena can have you accepting that she was in such an emotional state following her mother's death that she could throw the wrong child into the flames.

Oct. 12 2012 04:28 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

Gilbert & Sullivan satirized (or pai tribute to) "Trovatore" not only in "HMS Pinafore", but also in "The Gondoliers", which involved the alleged kidnapping of "the infant son of the King of Barataria" The confusion of identities arising from this event is set to rights by the portentous utterings of Inez, a nursemaid who does nothing else in the show, and who reveals that someone else entirely (other than one of the gondolier brothers) is in fact that kidnapped prince. Some of Sullivan's best music, in a less well known score.
I would add, as a "Trovatore" highlight, de Luna's "Il balen": Verdi baritone writing at its best.

Oct. 12 2012 01:53 PM

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