The fire of the gypsy’s curse is ablaze with
A heroic dueling troubadour
A fatal love triangle
The gypsies’ celebrated Anvil Chorus!
The Inquisition and civil war rage through 15th century Spain. A rivalry between brothers unknowingly separated at birth, a crazed gypsy woman, and a tyrannical count doom the love of a noblewoman for her ardent balladeer. Roman censors halted the 1853 premiere of this rousing opera about lust, madness, and murder!
A powerhouse cast delivers Verdi’s thrilling score, led by internationally lauded Joyce El-Khoury, and Nelson Martinez, who gave a brilliant, heartbreaking performance as Knoxville Opera’s Rigoletto.
Performed in Italian with projected English translations
Meet the Cast!
JOYCE EL-KHOURY (Leonora)
Birthplace: Beirut, Lebanon
Foreign Opera Companies: Beijing Opera, Korean National Opera, De Nederlandse Opera, L’Opéra Théâtre de St.-Étienne, Welsh National Opera, Vancouver Opera, Canadian Opera, Opera Lyra (Ottawa)
Foreign Orchestras: Munich Philharmonic, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, BBC Orchestra (England)
U.S. Opera Companies: Metropolitan Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Opera Camerata (DC), Palm Beach Opera, Knoxville Opera, Kansas City Lyric Opera, Opera North Carolina, Des Moines Metro Opera, Austin Lyric Opera
U.S. Orchestras and Festivals: Tanglewood Festival, Baltimore Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Castleton Festival, Riverside Symphonia (NYC), NY Choral Society
Opera CDs: Belisario and Les Martyrs (Opera Rara)
JONATHAN BURTON (Manrico)
Birthplace: Portsmouth, Ohio
Foreign Opera Company: Royal Opera Muscat (Oman)
Foreign Orchestras: Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, Teatro la Fenice (Venice), Sinfonica de Galicia (Spain), Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra
U.S. Opera Companies: Sarasota Opera, Kentucky Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Tulsa Opera, Utah Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Shreveport Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Phoenix Opera, Opera New Jersey, Dayton Opera, Opera Omaha, Annapolis Opera, Central City Opera, Lyric Opera Virginia, Opera Naples, Opera on the James, Southern Ohio Light Opera
U.S. Orchestras and Festivals: Kentucky Symphony, Springfield Symphony, Lexington Symphony, Southern Ohio Symphony, Castleton Festival
NELSON MARTINEZ (Il Conte di Luna)
Birthplace: Holguín, Cuba
Foreign Opera Companies: Greek National Opera, Opéra de Massy (Paris), Teatro Sao Paulo, Teatro Lirico Nacional (Cuba), Teatro Lirico Holguín (Cuba)
Foreign Orchestras and Festivals: Cuban National Symphony, Youth Spring Festival of Pyong Yang (Korea)
U.S. Opera Companies: Florida Grand Opera, Knoxville Opera, Opera Company of North Carolina, Winter Opera St. Louis, Metro Lyric Opera (NJ), Baltimore Lyric Opera, Miami Lyric Opera, Sociedad Pro Arte Grateli (Miami), Teatro Grattacielo (NYC)
U.S. Orchestra: Orlando Philharmonic
DANA BETH MILLER (Azucena)
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas
Foreign Opera Companies: Deutsche Oper Berlin, Badishe Staatstheater Karlsruhe, Edmonton Opera, Opéra de Montreal
Foreign Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic
U.S. Opera Companies: Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera, Dallas Opera, Cincinnati Opera, New York City Opera, Arizona Opera, Opera Colorado, Florida Grand Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Tulsa Opera, San Antonio Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Pensacola Opera, Sacramento Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Utah Opera
U.S. Orchestras and Festivals: American Symphony (NYC), San Antonio Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Sacramento Philharmonic, Tulsa Symphony, Austin Symphony, Princeton Festival
PATRICK BLACKWELL (Ferrando)
Foreign Opera Company: Porgy & Bess European Tour
Foreign Orchestra: Munich Philharmonic
U.S. Opera Companies: Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York City Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, New Orleans Opera, Ft. Worth Opera, Fresno Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Utah Opera, New Jersey State Opera, Florentine Opera (Milwaukee), Des Moines Opera, Toledo Opera, Augusta Opera, Opera Illinois, Chamber Opera Chicago, Ars Viva of Chicago, Union Avenue Opera (St. Louis)
U.S. Orchestras and Festivals: Boston Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Fresno Symphony, Castleton Festival
Spain is torn apart by Civil War. The commander of the Royalist Aragon troops, Count di Luna, is obsessed with Leonora, a young noblewoman in the queen’s service, who does not return his love. Outside the royal residence his soldiers keep watch at night. An unknown troubadour has been heard serenading Leonora and the jealous count is determined to capture and punish him. To keep his troops awake, the captain, Ferrando, recounts the terrible story of a gypsy woman who was burned at the stake years ago for bewitching the count’s infant brother (“Abbietta zingara”). The gypsy’s daughter then took revenge by kidnapping the boy and—so the story goes—throwing him into the flames where her mother had died. The charred skeleton of a baby was discovered there and di Luna’s father died of grief soon after. No trace was ever found of the daughter, but di Luna, always hoping that the remains might not have been his brother’s, has sworn to find her.
In the palace gardens Leonora confesses to her companion Inez that she is in love with a mysterious man she met before the outbreak of war. It is he who now returns as the troubadour to serenade her each night (“Tacea la notte placida”). After they have gone indoors, Count di Luna appears in the garden, driven nearly insane with desire for Leonora. As he approaches her door, the troubadour’s song is heard in the darkness. Leonora rushes out to greet him but is seized instead by di Luna. The troubadour appears and reveals his true identity; he is Manrico, leader of the partisan rebel forces. Furious, the count challenges him to fight to the death.
The duel has been fought, with Manrico overpowering the count. But, strangely, some instinct stopped him from striking the blow that would have killed his rival, and he let the count live. The war has raged on with the Royalist forces victorious in the last battle. Manrico has been badly wounded but his mother, the gypsy Azucena, has dragged him from the battlefield to a camp in the mountains and nursed him back to health.
Azucena is the woman di Luna has been looking for. Her life is scarred by the memory of her mother’s death and the terrible revenge she exacted (“Stride la vampa”). Manrico is determined to hear the whole truth and once the camp has moved on, she begins to tell him a horrific story. She stole the count’s infant son but the child she murdered was in fact her own (“Condotta ell’era in ceppi”). When Manrico demands to know who he truly is, Azucena is evasive; all that matters is the maternal love she has shown him all his life and that he does not fail in his oath to take revenge on the house of di Luna. A messenger arrives with news of Leonora. Believing Manrico has died in battle, and to escape the grasp of di Luna, she is entering a convent. Azucena pleads with Manrico to stay, but he resolves to go to her immediately. Azucena sets off on a journey of her own.
Di Luna plans to storm the walls of the convent with his troops and take Leonora by force (“Il balen del suo sorriso”). As Leonora prepares to take her vows, he tries to seize her, but is prevented by the attack of Manrico and his men. In the ensuing fight and confusion, the lovers escape (Finale: “E deggio e posso crederlo”).
The Gypsy’s Son
Di Luna and his army are attacking the fortress where Manrico has taken refuge with Leonora. Ferrando drags in Azucena, who has been captured wandering near the camp. When she hears di Luna’s name, Azucena’s reactions arouse suspicion and Ferrando recognizes her as the murderer of the count’s brother. Azucena cries out to her son Manrico to rescue her and the count realizes that he has the means to flush his enemy out of the fortress. He orders his men to build a pyre and burn Azucena before the walls.
Inside the castle, Manrico and Leonora are preparing to be married. She is frightened; the battle with di Luna is imminent and Manrico’s forces are outnumbered. He assures her of his love, even in the face of death (“Ah sì, ben mio”). When news of Azucena’s capture reaches him, he summons his men and desperately prepares to attack (“Di quella pira”).
Manrico’s army has been defeated and he and Azucena are being held captive in di Luna’s castle. Leonora has escaped with Ruiz, Manrico’s lieutenant, and comes to the prison. She knows that he is condemned to death and prays for his salvation (“D’amor sull’ali rosee”). The troubador’s voice is heard from inside the castle. When di Luna appears and orders the execution of both Manrico and Azucena at sunrise, Leonora offers herself to the count in return for her lover’s life, but secretly takes a slow poison to cheat di Luna of his prize.
Inside the prison, Manrico tries to comfort Azucena, who is terrified by visions of the stake and the fire that await her. He lulls her with memories of their former freedom and happiness (Duet: “Ai nostri monti”). Leonora rushes in to tell Manrico that he is saved, urging him to escape. He understands what she has done and furiously denounces her, refusing di Luna’s mercy. But the poison is already taking effect. Leonora dies in his arms. Di Luna enters the cell in time to witness her death. He sends Manrico to his execution. Azucena cries out that her mother is avenged: di Luna has killed his own brother.