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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
An Introduction to...Il Trovatore
Background
Italy's history in the 19th century
Verdi's popularity
The operas
Rigoletto
La traviata
Il Trovatore
Genesis of Il trovatore
Principal characters and the story so far
The gypsy woman
Leonora's entrance aria
The role of Inez
Count di Luna and his place as Manrico's rival
Act II: the gypsies' encampment; Azucena's 'Stride la vampa!'
Azucena continues her story
Who is Manrico?
At the convent
Act II finale
Act III: Di Luna's soldiers
Manrico: 'Ah! S! ben mio'; 'Di quella pira'
Act IV: Leonora's 'D'amor sull' ali rosee'
Leonora and Di Luna
Azucena and Manrico share a prison cell
Conclusion
Narrative written by Thomson Smillie and spoken by David Timson
Musical extracts taken from complete Naxos recording (8.660023-24) conducted by Pier Giorgio Morandi
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NAXOS EDUCATIONAL 8.558079 [79.18]


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As my reviews of ‘L’elisir d’amore’ and ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ in this series indicate, I am quite an enthusiast of this format. A nice balance of clarity and erudition is struck in the introduction to each opera and also in the explanatory narrative supporting the musical extracts. It was therefore with some disappointment that I found the background introduction to this Trovatore (trs. 1-5), the second of Verdi’s great middle period trio, so brief - a mere 18 minutes. It may be that this is because there have already been CDs devoted to the other two of that trio, Rigoletto and Traviata. These operas are also dealt with here (trs. 4 and 5). Musical excerpts also juxtaposed with references to Verdi’s troubles with the censor. This issue of censorship is introduced (tr. 3) as the author extends consideration of Verdi’s middle period to Aida and Don Carlos. Smillie attributes Papal influence to the censor’s decisions and makes the case for the composer’s atheist view of Catholicism influencing his attitude. Tracks 1 and 2 briefly relate Verdi’s place in the political history of Italy (tr. 1), and notes how the music became identified with the struggle for the unification and liberation from foreign occupation issues that reached a peak during this period. Audiences had already identified their situation of oppression with many choruses from earlier Verdi operas to the extent of civil disorder during and after performances. These included cries of the acrostic ‘Viva Verdi’. More could have been made (tr. 2) of the composer’s responses to the various developments in the fight for unification including his financial support for Garibaldi’s wounded soldiery. This would have left him very exposed if the Austrians had taken Piedmont. Verdi was very much at the centre of developments, at crisis points in this turbulent period of Italy’s gestation.

Track 6 about the genesis of Il Trovatore makes some very worthwhile points on the relationship of Verdi, and of other operatic composers, to how we remember certain authors and their works. It also gives a realistic assessment of the so called absurdity of the plot. Track 7 gives a very clear analysis of the characters in the opera and what had gone on before the curtain fell. This is very important if the absurdity argument is to be refuted and the actual cohesive nature of the plot fully comprehended. The remaining tracks take the listener through the opera. The narrative is nicely balanced by musical illustration derived from the complete Naxos recording which is by the way vibrant. And all this despite lacking the world’s greatest singers - a prerequisite according to Caruso for successful performances of Il Trovatore.

If my previous reviews have converted the reader to this series, do not let my minor criticisms deter from the purchase of this issue. This disc will greatly help anybody new to the work. It is one of Verdi’s most tuneful operas from that glorious middle period.

Robert J Farr

 



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