The mass appeal of Verdi’s middle-period opera Il trovatore can be attributed to its overabundance of hummable tunes. But those same arias and duets also pack a dramatic wallop when set against the machinations of the melodramatic plot, which takes place amid civil war in 15th-century Spain. Manrico and Count Di Luna are twin brothers separated at birth, the former kidnapped by a Gypsy woman and presumed dead. Years later, their paths cross–they’re fighting for opposing political causes and are both in love with the fair Leonora. Manrico, disguised as a troubador (hence the opera’s title), woos her with serenades while the count fumes on the sidelines. In the meantime the Gypsy’s daughter, Azucena, who brought Manrico up as her own son, plots to avenge the death of her mother, who was burned alive by the count’s father. This Lyric Opera production is distinguished by the presence of several emerging Verdi specialists. Lyuba Kazarnovskaya, a Russian soprano still in her 20s but poised on divahood, brings her supple, clear voice to the role of Leonora; young Oklahoma City tenor Chris Merritt sings the part of Manrico; Paolo Gavanelli is the count; and Dolora Zajick has the pivotal role of Azucena, after whom Verdi originally intended to name the opera. Though the direction (by Sonia Frisell) and sets (by Nicola Benois) are hardly new, this production does follow musicologist Philip Gossett’s edition of the score, which restores some earlier cuts. Conducting is Richard Buckley. Sunday, 2 PM, Tuesday, 7:30 PM, and six more performances in January, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker; 332-2244.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dan Rest.