The opera that marks the artistic maturity of VerdiIl Trovatore is one of the three great operas (along with Rigoletto and La Traviata) with which Giuseppe Verdi reached his full artistic maturity and was recognized as the greatest Italian composer of the 1800s. After the success of Rigoletto at Teatro La Fenice in Venice in March 1851, Verdi returned to Busseto, his home town, where he lived with the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi. Their living together out of matrimony was considered scandalous in the small town.
His next piece of work had already started to take shape in January of that year, when the Maestro had recommended to the librettist Salvatore Cammarano to buy a copy of El Trovador by the Spanish writer Antonio Garcìa-Gutiérrez. It was a story from the romantic period, set in Madrid in 1836, which had been very successful and had made a great impression on the public, above all for the power and originality of the plot and of the characters. Verdi himself loved these qualities and made an agreement with Cammarano to write a libretto based on this subject. Once free from working on Rigoletto, he started to think about the opera which would be entitled Il Trovatore.
As Verdi and Cammarano worked in different places, between the two of them there was an intense correspondence to work on the draft. Once the composer had read the libretto, he offered some suggestions for some changes to be made, and continued to do this until, little by little, the libretto started to take shape . He was particularly interested in loyalty towards the Spanish story, as he was fascinated by the originality and peculiarity of the storyline.
In the winter between 1851 and 1852 Verdi and Strepponi moved to Paris, where the musician endured a particularly busy period. He worked on Il Trovatore, had signed a contract with the Opéra de Paris for a new opera Les Vêpres Siciliennes and also assisted with the theatrical adaptation of La Dame aux Camélias, by Alexandre Dumas Junior which had inspired him to write La Traviata. In March 1852 the Maestro returned to Busseto, with Giuseppina, and he continued to work on Il Trovatore, even though his work was continuously interrupted by precarious health conditions of his librettist and his father (his mother had died the previous year). He also corresponded with Francesco Maria Piave to work on the libretto for La Traviata.
Unfortunately, in July of the same year, Cammarano died. The libretto wasn't complete at that stage, so the poet Leone Emanuele Bardare from Naples was entrusted with the job of finishing it using the notes which had been left by the previous author as a guideline. The birth of the libretto suffered, therefore, considerably, but fortunately the music took a lot less time to compose: it was done in the course of one month in November 1852. This was probably because the project had already been clear in the musician's mind for a year at that stage.
Once the final obstacle had been overcome, Verdi had to find a theatre where he could stage the opera. Initially, being aware of the link between Cammarano and Naples, he had thought about the Teatro San Carlo, but then he decided to choose a theatre which had more appropriate artists available. Finally he came to a satisfactory agreement with The Apollo Theatre in Rome, and the date of the première was fixed for January 19th, 1853.
This turned out to be a success without precedent. The public was very enthusiastic. La Gazzetta Musicale described it as a merited triumph and Il Trovatore was defined as a masterpiece, as it is considered even now.