Fifteen years ago a Romani woman was burnt at the stake for allegedly bewitching a child of the noble di Luna family. The Romani woman’s daughter, Azucena, witnessed her mother’s death and swore revenge. She stole the child’s brother, intending to throw him into the flames of her mother’s still burning pyre. In her frenzy she mistakenly murdered her own child. She was horrified by her mistake but chose to bring up the young Count as her own child in the knowledge that one day she might achieve her revenge upon the child’s real family.
Scene i: A Nationalist Barracks during the Spanish Civil War — night
Ferrando relates the tale of the Count’s brother who, as a baby, disappeared from the castle. He also tells the gathered soldiers of an unknown troubadour who has been heard serenading Leonora, currently the subject of the Count’s passion.
Scene ii.’ Leonora’s house — later that night
Late at night Leonora is hoping to be visited by her suitor. Confiding in Inez, she relates how she first encountered the troubadour and admits that she is in love with him. Disregarding Inez’s advice to forget him, Leonora declares that she would rather die than live without her mysterious visitor. The Count waits outside in the dark, intending to confront Leonora. Hearing the troubadour approaching, he tries to hide, but is spotted by Leonora who mistakes him for her lover. As she is about to embrace him, the troubadour, Manrico, arrives and accuses Leonora of being unfaithful. The confrontation of the two rivals ends with a fight.
Scene iii: The remains of a Republican encampment — one week later
Azucena recollects to Manrico the aftermath of a battle between the Nationalists and Republicans when the Republicans were defeated. She then sings about the death of her mother, demanding that Manrico should avenge her. A message arrives informing Manrico that Leonora, believing Manrico to have been killed in battle, is about to enter a convent. He hastily departs, ignoring Azucena’s pleas.
Scene iv: A Convent — the same evening
The Count and his men are waiting for Leonora as she arrives at the Convent. Just as the Count attempts to seize her, Manrico arrives, supported by his men. He escapes with his love.
Scene i: The Nationalists’ field headquarters — the following day
The Count and his army are awaiting reinforcements for the anticipated attack on Manrico’s rebel forces. Azucena is discovered wandering near their camp and is brought to the Count for questioning. Freely admitting that she is Manrico’s mother, Ferrando recognises her as the woman who stole the Count’s brother many years before. The Count sees his opportunity for revenge on his rival and orders Azucena to be taken prisoner.
Scene ii: Outside a bombed church — later that day
Manrico and Leonora are about to be married. Ruiz, one of Manrico’s soldiers, arrives with the news that Azucena has been captured by the Count. Calling his men to arms, Manrico immediately sets off to rescue his mother.
Scene iii: Outside a Nationalist prison — the following night
Having failed in his rescue attempt, Manrico is now held prisoner under sentence of death. Ruiz brings Leonora to the place where her lover is being held. She plans to plead for his release, horrified to hear Manrico’s voice bidding her farewell. The Count appears, and in a desperate bid to save her lover, Leonora offers herself to him if he will spare Manrico. (She is prepared to take poison rather than fulfil her promise). The Count agrees, giving her permission to free Manrico herself.
Scene iv: Inside the death cell — later that night
Manrico is comforting Azucena in the prison cell. Leonora arrives to tell him that he is free, but he is suspicious of her actions to achieve this outcome. Manrico rejects Leonora, but as she confesses what she has done, the poison starts to take effect. Manrico is filled with remorse. As she dies the Count realises he has been tricked. He decides to kill Manrico. Azucena achieves her revenge by revealing that Manrico was the Count’s long lost brother.