Part 1 The Duel
Scene 1: The guardroom of the Palace of Aliaferia. Late at night.
Ferrando, Captain of Count di Luna’s guards, warns his men to stay alert for signs of a mysterious troubadour who has been singing below the window of the Count’s fiancée. They ask him to tell the story of the Count’s older brother, Garzia. Ferrando tells them that thirty years ago, a gypsy suspected of being a witch, was caught near the boy’s bed. When the boy sickened, the gypsy was burned at the stake. The boy recovered, but the gypsy’s daughter kidnapped him. Later, a child’s burnt bones were found on the same spot where the gypsy had been burned. The old count always believed that his son still lived and made the present Count di Luna promise to continue to look for his brother. Ferrando himself continues to look for the gypsy’s daughter, whom he knows he would still recognize. He warns the soldiers that sometimes the gypsy’s ghost is seen manifesting in different forms. The clock strikes midnight and the soldiers hurry off to their posts.
Scene 2: The gardens of the Palace of Aliaferia. The same night.
Leonora, lady-in-waiting to the queen, is waiting for the troubadour who comes to the garden to serenade her. Her friend, Ines, warns her that it is dangerous to meet with this secret love. Leonora tells Ines how she crowned an unknown knight at a tournament and immediately fell in love with him. She now feels that life without him is not worth living. The women return to the palace.
Count di Luna arrives to keep watch beneath his fiancée’s balcony. His vigil is interrupted by a troubadour’s song. Leonora returns and mistakes the count for the troubadour, declaring her love. The troubadour reveals himself as Manrico, a leader of the rebel forces. Despite Leonora’s pleas, the two men fight.
Part 2 The Gypsy
Scene 1: A gypsy camp near Zaragosa. Several months later.
Azucena, Manrico’s mother, interrupts the gypsies preparing for the day with the story of her own mother’s tortured death at the stake. When she finishes her sad tale, the gypsies break camp and head to town. Manrico, recovering from wounds received in battle, pries more horrible details from Azucena. She describes her mother’s cries for vengeance and how, in a crazed state, she herself stole the count’s son, planning to burn him at the same spot her mother died; but in her delirium she threw her own child into the flames. When Manrico asks who he is if not her son, Azucena protests that she is his mother; she raised him, and it was she who found him near death on the battlefield and nursed him back to health. She asks him why he didn’t kill Count di Luna when he had the chance, but Manrico says it was an invisible force that held back his hand. Azucena prompts him to swear he will never pass up that opportunity again. A messenger from Ruiz, Manrico’s lieutenant, alerts him that Leonora, believing him dead in battle, is about to swear vows to join a convent. Despite Azucena’s protests, Manrico rushes away to stop Leonora.
Scene 2: The cloister of a convent near Castellor. That night.
Count di Luna also plans to stop Leonora from taking her vows by abducting her. He is truly obsessed by her and believes she can come to love him. The count and his men hide when they hear the nuns approaching. Ines questions Leonora’s decision, but Leonora is adamant that without Manrico her life has no meaning. The count and his men emerge from hiding, but the abduction is stopped by the sudden arrival of Manrico. Leonora can hardly believe Manrico hasn’t descended from heaven, but the count and Manrico hurl defiance at each other. More of Manrico’s men arrive and disarm the count and his men. Manrico and Leonora escape.
Part 3 The Gypsy’s Son
Scene 1: Count di Luna’s camp besieging Castellor. A few days later.
Count di Luna’s soldiers prepare for the attack on the castle where Manrico and his men have taken Leonora. The count swears revenge. The soldiers drag in a gypsy they found near the camp. The count questions her, but her answers are vague until Ferrando recognizes her as the woman who kidnapped the count’s brother. When the count condemns her to the stake, the terrified Azucena calls out to her son Manrico for help. The count is elated that he has his rival’s mother in his power.
Scene 2: A hall outside the chapel of Castellor. That same evening.
Surrounded by the sounds of battle preparations, Leonora and Manrico anticipate their wedding. To calm Leonora’s anxieties, Manrico assures her that with her love, even if he were to die in battle, it would only be to precede her to heaven where they will be united. Ruiz rushes in with the news that di Luna’s men have captured a gypsy. Manrico realizes it is his mother and calls his men to arms to rescue her from the fire.
Part 4 The Penalty
Scene 1: A courtyard outside the prison tower of the Palace of Aliaferia. At night, a few days later.
Guided by Ruiz, Leonora reaches Manrico’s prison. Alone, she wishes to send comfort to him somehow. The sound of chanting monks praying for Manrico’s soul terrifies her. Manrico’s song begging her not to forget him inspires her to rescue him. She hides when the count approaches, but emerges to offer herself to the count in return for Manrico’s freedom. Disbelieving at first, the count eventually agrees. But when he summons his men to arrange Manrico’s release, Leonora quickly takes a poison so the count will only have her cold corpse.
Scene 2: A prison cell in the Palace of Aliaferia. Immediately following.
Manrico and Azucena are imprisoned together. She still has nightmare visions of her mother’s death, foreseeing her own death by fire. Manrico calms her with memories of their home in the mountains. Just as Azucena falls asleep, Leonora enters and tries to get Manrico to flee the prison alone. However, he suspects the price she paid for his freedom and he curses her betrayal. Weakened by the poison, Leonora collapses and Manrico realizes her sacrifice. The count arrives to see Leonora die in Manrico’s arms. Furious, he orders Manrico’s immediate execution. Azucena awakes, calling for her son. The count shows her Manrico’s body. She cries out that Manrico was his brother and that her mother has finally been avenged.
– Karl W Hesser