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Subject: Re: Plot failures (was perfect operas)
From: Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 10 Aug 2018 13:50:22 -0400

text/plain (76 lines)

Les - I love you, but I do have to say your imagination is also quite colorful and 
interesting. Manrico never resolves to do any such thing. 

He does say this - he calls on his enemies to put out the fire, or that if not, he resolves to 
do it, with their blood. And in the last line of the aria, he does say that he resolves 
ultimately to die with her if he can't save her. (We all wait for that high C - but do we 
really register that the word there is "teco" - "with you"?)

But nope, no firewalking - except if he *can't* save her. ;-)

That said, Mr. Lowenthal's post that follows yours is very astute - theatrical convention 
and poetic libretto language in operas like Trovatore were quite conventional for their time 
- and audiences back then wouldn't be as concerned with the "stupidity" we potentially 
see in the characters now. And the "holes" in melodramatic plots like these just wouldn't 
be a big deal. 

For me, I look less to the fact of ridiculous plot turns than I do to the dramatic arc of the 
full piece. For me, Trovatore works because Verdi and Cammarano arc the story to keep 
our dramatic interest. There's only one moment in the opera where I tend to tune out a 
bit, and that's the soldier's chorus at the top of Act III - but even then I understand why 
it's needed. (And it's a great tune on its own terms, lol.) There are a few moments where 
I question Verdi's ease as a tunesmith - the biggest one is the oh-so-bouncy music sung 
by the Count, Ferrando and the soldiers during that spectacular concertato ensemble in 
Act II scene 2 - they're verbally threatening Manrico (essentially, "get the hell out of here 
if you value your life at all"), and yet their music is so "gleeful" lol. But in terms of the 
music itself, it's part of an exciting ensemble, so on some level it "works."

One thing Verdi (among other composers) could be great at, dramatically, is the wrap-up. 
Even if we understand that Leonora has miscalculated at the end, look how the action 
flies after her death. Immediately, the Count orders Manrico's death, and he is killed in 
very very short order. (The Count's command is "bring him to the stump" - is this meant 
to be a hanging or a beheading? Could be either. But in any case it happens very quickly.) 
No sooner is he executed than Azucena spills her secret, and as she pronounces her 
mother avenged, the Count is left with the horror of what he has done to his own brother. 
And curtain. It all happens so fast, which is dramatically so right. In a moment like that 
we're pulled into the drama and really shouldn't care at all about the holes in the story. 
We experience the raw emotions of the 2 remaining characters simultaneously, and the 
opera is over before we have time to think about it. 

BTW - how do we interpret Azucena's last line? often I feel it's just that big (and effective) 
final pronouncement. But of course again she's faced with the torment of pitting her 
mother against her love for Manrico - her mother is avenged, but at what cost? Also, I'd 
love to know how many mezzos have thought about making this line a real *discovery* - 
the simultaneous horror and relief that - oh, my god, this means mother is avenged. If 
she sings "egli era tuo fratello" and only THEN realizes what this means in terms of "mi 
vendica," it's even more chilling.  

And, what of the Count's last line - "e vivo ancor" - "and I still live"? Well, isn't this what 
he's wanted all along - to kill Manrico and win? Only at this last moment does he realize 
that living on is now his curse, not his triumph. 

It's wonderful drama, "perfect opera" or not. I'll take it. ;-)

On Fri, 10 Aug 2018 11:50:50 -0500, Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>   Your imagination is colorful and interesting.  

>Manrico ain't exactly a rocket scientist either, what with his "Di quella pira" where he 
resolves to walk through fire to save his mother. 

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