Sondra Radvanovsky (Leonora), Dolora Zajick (Azucena), Marcelo Álvarez (Manrico), Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Count di Luna), Kwangchul Youn (Ferrando)
Act I – The Duel
Spain (Aragon and Biscay), early 15th century. Civil war has broken out between the Prince of Aragon and the rebel Count of Urgel. At the castle of Count di Luna, commander of the Aragon troops, soldiers keep watch at night. Their captain, Ferrando, asks them to be alert: the count fears that a troubadour who has been seen in the garden may be his rival for the love of Leonora, a lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Aragon. Ferrando tells the soldiers the story of a gypsy woman who was burned at the stake years ago for bewitching the count’s younger brother (“Abbietta zingara”). The gypsy’s daughter later took revenge by kidnapping the boy and—so the story goes—throwing him into the flames at the same spot where her mother had died. Nothing has been heard of the daughter since, but di Luna hopes that his brother still lives.
In the palace gardens, Leonora tells her maid Inez about a knight she has met. He disappeared when the war began and has now returned as a troubadour who serenades her (“Tacea la notte placida”). Inez urges her to be careful, but Leonora declares her love for the stranger. After the women have reentered the castle, Count di Luna appears. Just as he is about to climb up to Leonora’s window, the troubadour’s song is heard in the distance. Leonora rushes in to greet him. When he reveals his identity as Manrico, leader of the rebels, the count challenges him to a duel.
Act II – The Gypsy
Manrico has been wounded in battle and is believed dead. In fact, he has been tended by his mother, the gypsy Azucena. In their camp, the other gypsies sing as they work (Chorus: “Vedi le fosche”), but Azucena is haunted by visions of her mother’s execution. Manrico asks her to tell him the full story. He is shocked when Azucena, overwhelmed with memories, says that she mistakenly threw her own son into the fire (“Condotta ell’era in ceppi”). When Manrico demands to know who he is, Azucena reassures him of a mother’s love and makes him swear revenge. Manrico tells her about his duel with di Luna and how, when he could have killed the count, a strange voice commanded him not to. A messenger brings news that Leonora, thinking Manrico dead, is about to enter a convent. Azucena tries to stop him but Manrico rushes away.
Di Luna arrives at the convent to kidnap Leonora (“Il balen del suo sorriso”). When she enters with the nuns, he tries to seize her, but is stopped by the unexpected appearance of Manrico. In the ensuing fight and confusion, the lovers escape (Finale: “E deggio e posso crederlo”).
Act III – The Gypsy’s Son
Di Luna and his army prepare to attack the fortress of Castellor, where Manrico has taken Leonora. Ferrando brings in Azucena, who has been captured nearby. When di Luna reveals his identity, Azucena’s reaction gives her away and Ferrando recognizes her as the supposed murderer of the count’s brother. Di Luna orders her to be burned at the stake. Azucena cries out to Manrico to rescue her and the count realizes that she will lead him to his enemy.
Inside the castle, Manrico assures Leonora that her love makes him invincible (“Ah sì, ben mio”). As they are about to get married, Manrico receives the news of Azucena’s capture and imminent execution. Leaving his bride behind, he calls his men and rushes to his mother’s rescue (“Di quella pira”).