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The Story Of 'Il Trovatore'

The opera is in four parts, each with a descriptive title. The story takes place in Spain, early in the 1600s. PART ONE is called "The Duel." It opens as an old soldier named Ferrando tells his troops about the sad family history of their commander, the Count di Luna. The count had an infant brother. One night, the baby's nurse woke up to find a gypsy lurking over the cradle. When the child became sick soon afterward, the gypsy was blamed and burned at the stake. As the woman was dying, she urged her daughter to take revenge. So the daughter kidnapped the infant and, according to Ferrando, burned him at the very stake where her mother perished. But the Count, Ferrando says, hopes his brother might still be alive.

The next scene takes place in the palace gardens. Leonora has just been to a tournament and tells her lady-in-waiting, Inez, that she has fallen in love with one of the knights. She hasn't seen him since, but sometimes she hears him singing to her from beneath her window.

The Count di Luna arrives to court Leonora. But at the same time, the voice of Manrico — the troubadour — floats on the air, again serenading Leonora. The Count is jealous, and goes out to challenge Manrico to a duel. The two men draw swords as Part One ends.

PART TWO is called "The Gypsy," and opens in a gypsy camp. Azucena nurses her son, Manrico, who is wounded. She tells the graphic story of her mother, who was burned at the stake, and how Azucena then kidnapped an infant, intending to burn him alive as revenge. Manrico is horrified when Azucena goes on to say that, in her delirium, she grabbed her own baby and flung him into the fire by mistake.

Distraught by the memory, Azucena makes Manrico swear to take revenge on the Count di Luna. He says that he could have killed the Count during their duel, but a mysterious voice made him stop. The story is interrupted when a messenger arrives, with news that Leonora believes Manrico has been killed. In despair, she has decided to enter a convent. Manrico leaves hurriedly, vowing to stop her.

Meanwhile, the Count has also gotten wind of Leonora's plans. He's waiting outside the convent, planning to kidnap her. When Leonora appears, he steps out to grab her. But Manrico arrives at the same time and intervenes. His men overpower the Count, allowing Manrico and Leonora to escape.

In PART THREE, "The Gypsy's Son," the Count di Luna is preparing to attack a castle where the two lovers are hiding out when Ferrando enters, dragging Azucena behind him. "Look who I found snooping around the camp!" he says. He recognizes Azucena as the very woman who kidnapped and, he thinks, murdered the Count's infant brother many years ago. The Count orders her burned at the stake, and Azucena is taken into custody.

Inside the castle, Manrico and Leonora are planning to get married. But Ruiz rushes in to tell them that Azucena has been captured and condemned. The pyre is already being prepared, and they can see it smoldering in the distance. Manrico and his men rush off to save her.

The title of PART FOUR is "The Execution." Manrico has been taken prisoner by the Count di Luna. Desperate to save him, Leonora offers herself to the Count in exchange for Manrico's life. When the Count agrees, she secretly swallows a slow-acting poison and then runs to the prison, where Manrico and Azucena are being held together.

Leonora tells Manrico that he's been freed and should flee. But he realizes how Leonora must have paid for his freedom and denounces her. She tries to explain, but the poison is taking effect. Manrico holds Leonora as she dies.

When the Count arrives and sees what has happened, he gives orders for Manrico to be put to death. Azucena watches resolutely as Manrico is led to the executioner's block. Then, just as the ax falls, she cries out that her mother has finally been avenged. "You," she tells the Count, "have just killed your own brother."

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