As I prepared for this week’s selection I was shocked that we hadn’t yet covered Il Trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi. The only trace of the opera I could find on Opera Daily was from a post about Manon Lescaut where we mentioned the aria Di Quella Pira from Il Trovatore (1853). At the time, a subscriber had asked me which aria I thought was the most beautiful. I mentioned that this is highly subjective, but for the most part, that I see beautiful as different from great. I believe Di Quella Pira from Il Trovatore is not beautiful, but it is great. And that beautiful, to me, means melodic, sweet, agreeable. Lyrical. In the post, I mentioned how “In quelle trine morbide,” is an exception because it is beautiful and great. That is an excellent segue into another exception that goes into the category of beautiful and great…
Today we’re listening to…
“D’amor sull'ali rosee” from Act IV of Il Trovatore, (“The Troubadour”) an opera in four acts by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi.
The story of Il Trovatore (eel troh-vah-TOH-ray) can be confusing. It does not consist of a single plot, but instead of three separate, intertwining sub-plots (and some critical parts of the story happen before the curtain goes up). To cut a long story short: a mother’s tragic past—and the curse that follows her—destroys two long-lost brothers who compete for the same woman.
📺 🎧 Watch and listen here (6 minute listen): Leontyne Price singing “D'amor sull'ali rosee” (“On the rosy wings of love”) from a 1963 Metropolitan Opera telecast. Leontyne Price (Leonora, lay-oh-NO-rah), Richard Tucker (Manrico), Robert Merrill (Count Di Luna), Irene Dalis (Azucena). Leontyne Price recorded the role of Leonora three times and some have said she was the greatest Leonora of the 1960s and 70s. This video is a bit blurry, but iconic. Her voice is fresh and full of emotion.
What is the context? Manrico has been captured in an attempt to save his mother from being executed and is now being held in prison by the Count of Luna. Leonora has come to the jail in disguise to see him.
On the rosy wings of love, go, oh mournful sigh;
comfort the flagging spirits of the wretched prisoner.
Like a breath of hope flutter in that room;
waken in him the memories, the dreams, the dreams of love.
But, pray, don’t imprudently tell him the pangs, the pangs that rack my heart!
You may have the universe if I may have Italy. - Giuseppe Verdi
Tenor Enrico Caruso, reportedly said it was easy to mount a production of Il Trovatore — all you needed were the four greatest singers in the world! I think he was right! This music is not easy and this aria is just one example. We will cover more arias and choruses from Il Trovatore in subsequent posts, but for now, here are some other interpretations of “D’amor sull'ali rosee”:
WATCH & LISTEN Leyla Gencer (Leonora), Mario del Monaco (Manrico), Orchestra Sinfonicaa di Milano della RAI, 1957 [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
LISTEN Montserrat Caballé (Leonora), Orquesta Sinfonica de Barcelona
LISTEN Maria Callas (Leonora), Palacio de Bellas Artes (Opera Nacional), Mexico City, 1950 [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
LISTEN Zinka Milanov (Leonora), RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra, 1946
WATCH & LISTEN Sondra Radvanovsky (Leonora), The Metropolitan Opera, 2011
Have questions about this opera or this post? Or another favorite interpretation? Drop your questions in the comments, and we will share more!
Thank you for reading (and listening),