In the early 15th Century, King Martin of Aragon died without naming an heir. A civil war broke out
among rivalling factions of the nobility vying for the throne. The events of the opera occurred in the
Aliaferia Palace in Zaragoza, around the fortress at Castellor and in the mountains of Biscay.
Act I: The Duel
Count di Luna and his royalist followers give protection to the widow-queen at Zaragoza. Old captain Ferrando tells his men how the Count’s father burned a gypsy witch, whose daughter abducted one of
his sons in revenge. The old Count charged the present Count to seek his lost brother. It is rumoured that the ghost of the old witch still haunts the palace at night.
In a courtyard of the Aliaferia Palace, Leonora tells her companion Inez how she fell in love with a knight who frequently comes to serenade her in the guise of a troubadour. After the ladies retire, the Count arrives hoping to tell Leonora of his affection for her. The troubadour also appears and reveals himself as Manrico, commander of a rivalling faction. The Count challenges him to a duel. Leonora tries to stop them in vain.
Act II: The Gypsy
Manrico has won the duel but has spared the Count’s life. He is wounded, however, in a subsequent battle and is recuperating. Azucena, Manrico’s mother, tells of her own mother’s burning, and of how she threw her own child into the flames instead of the Count’s son. Ruiz tells Manrico that Leonora, believing him dead, will enter a convent. Manrico rushes out to prevent Leonora from taking her vows.
The Count tries to abduct Leonora, but Manrico intervenes and overpowers the Count’s soldiers.
Manrico takes Leonora to his fortress at Castellor.
Act III: The Gypsy’s Son
The Count has captured Azucena, whom Ferrando recognizes as the baby-snatcher. Count di Luna orders to have Azucena burnt alive at the stake.
As Manrico and Leonora prepare to wed, Manrico is told that Azucena is to be burned, and goes to rescue her.
Act IV: The Torture
Manrico has failed in his attempt to rescue his mother and is imprisoned with Azucena in the towers of the Aliaferia Palace. Leonora offers herself to the Count to save Manrico. The Count is delighted to accept the bargain, but Leonora swallows the poison hidden in her ring unnoticed.
Inside the prison, mother and son recall happier days in the mountains. When Leonora comes to tell Manrico he is free, he suspects betrayal and repulses her. She died as the poison takes effect. The Count has Manrico executed – and Azucena reveals that he has killed his own brother. Her
mother is avenged!