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By the time that Manrico has saved Leonora from becoming a nun in what is visually the most striking set of the performance, with decorative railings separating sacred and profane, while a superincumbent cross gives the sisters all the spiritual backing they need, he and the Count are engaged in opposing warfare. Verdi endows the Count's soldiery with outstanding musical valour [listen -- DVD2 Act III, 'Sqilli, echeggi la tromba']. The result is capture of Azucena, and the worsting of Manrico in his attempt to rescue her.

Decorative railings separate sacred from profane in Karajan's 'Il Trovatore'. © ORF/TDK
Decorative railings separate sacred from profane in Karajan's 'Il Trovatore'. © ORF/TDK

Misfortune incites Azucena to yet more manic flights of wrath, so that she becomes an incandescent Fury of destruction [listen -- DVD2 Act III, 'Giorni poveri vivea -- Tua prole, o turpe zingara']. If Verdi's greatest tragic opera was the Manzoni Requiem, he is never happier in the stage works than when conjuring up some aspect of ecclesiastical life. A tolling bell, chanting monk or kneeling nun had an irresistible appeal to this distinguished apostate of the Roman church. Manrico is now a prisoner in a tower of the Count's palace, and some convenient monks have assembled to crave mercy on the souls of those about to die.

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Copyright © 21 November 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK

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