To stage Verdi's Il Trovatore, according to Arturo Toscanini, you need to bring together the four best singers in the world. This stunning production at Milan's La Scala unites four luminaries of today's opera scene to great effect: with his lilting legato, Marcelo Álvarez (Manrico) does justice to the opera's bel canto character; Franco Vassallo brings assurance and flair to the Count di Luna; Maria Agresta (Leonora) effortlessly rises to the challenges of the score; and Ekaterina Semenchuk (Azucena) also masters the most difficult notes. With the fastidious Daniele Rustioni leading La Scala's world-class orchestra, the music leads the action apace, resounding alongside the hall's legendary chorus and amid monumental sets and decor in this sublime production of one of the world's favorite operas.
Falsely accused by the Count di Luna of putting a curse on his young child, the mother of the gypsy Azucena was burned alive as a witch. To avenge her mother, Azucena abducted the Count's son but, while attempting to sacrifice him, accidentally killed her own child. Raised by Azucena, the Count's son Manrico has become a troubadour whose songs have seduced the noblewoman Leonora, whom the new Count di Luna (son of the previous, and brother to Manrico) wants for himself. After successive acts of love, jealousy, and war, Manrico finds himself imprisoned in a dungeon. Leonora saves him by offering herself to the Count, but takes a slow-acting poison to avoid this fate and eventually dies in Manrico's arms. The Count then has Manrico executed, ignorant of their fraternal bond, and Azucena cries out, "Egli era tuo fratello! Sei vendicata, o madre": "He was your brother ... You are avenged, oh mother!"