Il trovatore (Italian for “The Troubadour”) is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto largely written by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play El trovador (1836) by Antonio García Gutiérrez. It was Gutiérrez’s most successful play, one which Verdi scholar Julian Budden describes as “a high flown, sprawling melodrama flamboyantly defiant of the Aristotelian unities, packed with all manner of fantastic and bizarre incident.”
The premiere took place at the Teatro Apollo in Rome on January 19, 1853, where it “began a victorious march throughout the operatic world,” a success due to Verdi’s work over the previous three years. It began with his January 1850 approach to Cammarano with the idea of Il trovatore. There followed, slowly and with interruptions, the preparation of the libretto, first by Cammarano until his death in mid-1852 and then with the young librettist Leone Emanuele Bardare, which gave the composer the opportunity to propose significant revisions, which were accomplished under his direction. These revisions are seen largely in the expansion of the role of Leonora.
For Verdi, the three years were filled with operatic activity because work on this opera did not proceed while the composer wrote and premiered Rigoletto in Venice in March 1851 and also while his personal affairs limited his activities. Then, in May 1851, an additional commission was offered by the Venice company after Rigoletto’s success there. Then another came from Paris while he was visiting that city from late 1851 and into March 1852. Therefore, even before the libretto for Il trovatore was ever completed, before the music was written, and before the opera premiered, Verdi had a total of four different operatic projects underway and in various stages of development.
Today, in its Italian version, Trovatore is given very frequently and is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire.