Il Trovatore, Verdi and passions

Last night I did something that I’ve never done before – I went to the opera. I don’t know quite what I expected, and it was great, but I found myself pondering a few things as the story progressed.

First of all the production was well done, very substantial sets, world-class singers, and my friends got us good “cheap” seats. First of all, a summary of Verdi’s plot:

A gypsy woman is caught giving the evil eye over the crib of one of the sons of a Count. She is summarily burned at the stake when the infant becomes sick and they decide she has bewitched him. Her daughter is a witness to her death, and in retaliation she kidnaps the child and intends in throwing him into the same fire that burned her mother. She takes the child, but in the passion of the moment she tosses her own infant to the flames! So she raises the Count’s son as her own, and when the bones are discovered the obvious conclusion is reached, though the Count is never sure that the bones were of HIS child.

So the boy grows up as a gypsy, eventually becomes a knight and wins the heart of lovely Lenore. Alas, a war gets between them. Eventually the troubador (Manrico) starts singing with his lute outside of milady’s bedchamber. Alas and alack, his sworn enemy and current Count (and his brother) is in love with her. This is where the opera begins.

Assorted things happen, there is a duel between the two men, Manrico spares his brother for some reason (he said heaven told him not to kill the Count). The woman he knows as his mother tells him the story of the events 15 years ago, but doesn’t, quite, tell him that he isn’t her son. Actually she does tell him but in a way that he can set it aside if he chooses. And so he does.

Milady thinks Manrico is dead, so Lenore decides to enter a convent as a nun. The count insists that no one will have her, not even God – that she is HIS! He shows up to stop the events, Manrico shows up and whisks her away. There is a battle, both Manrico and his mother are captured (he goes to save her when they capture her). Both are set to die the next morning.

Lenore can’t bear the thought of his death and strikes a deal with the count, she will marry him if Manrico lives and goes free. He agrees. Manrico is horror struck when he realizes what she has done, and even more so when he realizes that she has taken poison rather than marry the count. She dies, the count has him executed. As soon as it is too late, the gypsy woman tells him that he has just killed his brother and that she is finally avenged for the death of her mother. Curtain falls as the Count falls in grief and that, is the end.

What I found myself pondering upon, was the role of the passions in all of this. All of the characters are so caught up in what THEY want – that it doesn’t really matter what the object of their affection, love, hatred, whatever, want. Even the love of Lenore and Manrico has taken that one step too far, though they are certainly focused on each other. Manrico places the life of the woman he thinks his mother over that of his beloved (though she is happy to see him dead – as he is a means to an end for her). Certainly it isn’t a bad thing to risk your life for love of a loved one, but there is something else that comes through in all of the impassioned arias. Of course, Verdi was focusing on getting, and keeping, everyone’s attention!

Don’t get me wrong, the opera was great! I am glad that I went once, but I suspect that if I spend a significant time at the opera pondering on the role of the passions played out before us, that I probably shouldn’t return. It was a most enjoyable evening though, and I do recommend this opera if you get a chance. Parts of it are rather over the top and even absurd, but I think that is the way operas are supposed to be 🙂 Go here for more information that is probably more accurate than my summary!

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2 thoughts on “Il Trovatore, Verdi and passions

  1. Mrs. Mutton says:

    Ah, thank you for clarifying what it is that I can’t stand about opera. This has bothered me for a long time — after all, I’m a singer. I sang before I could talk. And I don’t sing junk music, either, so WHY do I dislike opera so much?! It occurs to me that it’s probably because it is, always, about the passions. Not to mention the silliness of it all; I mean, if La Boheme’s Rodolfo has been necking with Mimi, and Mimi has TB, he really shouldn’t have the lung capacity to be singing about his loss while she’s withering away. His own lungs wouldn’t be in much better shape than hers, n’est-ce pas??

    That said, like every classical-music lover, I do have certain arias that I just can’t resist. But opera in general — nah. Thank you for taking the guilt away. 😉

  2. Mimi says:

    I’ve never been to the Opera, but this sounds like a lovely night out. I also agree with your analysis of our struggle with the passions so bluntly set out before us.

    And, Meg, Bwhahahahahahahaha: I just read this part out loud to my hubby, giggle, giggle snort.

    Not to mention the silliness of it all; I mean, if La Boheme’s Rodolfo has been necking with Mimi, and Mimi has TB, he really shouldn’t have the lung capacity to be singing about his loss while she’s withering away. His own lungs wouldn’t be in much better shape than hers, n’est-ce pas??

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