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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
La Forza Del Destino - a melodrama in four acts (1862 but performed in the 1869 version)
Il Marchese di Calatrava - Duccio Dal Monte
Donna Leonora - Violeta Urmana
Don Carlo di Vargas - Carlo Guelfi
Don Alvaro - Marcello Giordani
Preziosilla - Julia Gertseva
Padre Guardiano - Roberto Scandiuzzi
Fra Melitone - Bruno De Simone
Curra - Antonella Trevisan
Un alacade - Filippo Polinelli
Mastro Trabuco - Carlo Bosi
Un chirurgo - Alessandro Luongo
Orchestra and chorus of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Zubin Mehta
Maggio Danza
rec. live, Teatro Communale, Florence, Italy, 2007
A Zurich Opera House production
Sound: PCM stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1
Picture format: 16.9
Region code 0
ARTHAUS MUSIK 107 325 [2 DVDs: 178:00]

Verdi’s La Forza Del Destino is described as a melodrama and so it is, the tragic twists of fate and the unbelievable coincidences that dog and blight the lives of Leonora and Don Alvaro are the very stuff of melodrama. Who could believe in a plot device involving a pistol thrown to the ground in humble acceptance of a father’s ire against Alvaro’s desire for his sweetheart Leonora, going off accidentally to kill the father. Still less that this would trigger the tragedy that follows in which the crazed brother of Leonora is bent on revenge, swearing to kill the hapless couple. That said, what wonderful music distinguishes this opera. That thrilling overture is surely amongst the best if not the very best that Verdi wrote and how well Mehta expresses its dramatic urge and nervous excitement.
This production has very minimalistic sets. The final act, for instance, has Leonora, leading a hermit-like life of penance and imprisoned in a cave by the saintly, but rigid, Padre Guardino. She is seen behind what looks like a giant playpen or fireguard. The costumes are very good and true to the period in which this production is set which to my mind is a miscalculation. This staging is different to conventional productions of La Forza Del Destino. The original intention was to set the opera in the 18th century, in the period of the wars of the Spanish Succession. This lent that bit of credence to the absurdities of the plot. To bring the action forward to the mid-19th century and to the Risorgimento battles in Act III Italy belies that credence. Add to this suits looking so much like those of today and the effect is exacerbated.
To the performances: Verdi in this case gives his singers very taxing roles and this cast rises to its challenges especially buxom Violetta Urmana who is extraordinarily persuasive as Leonora. Her singing prompts thunderous, spontaneous applause from this Florentine audience. No wonder - her strong, intense delivery consistently grips. This endures from her Act I aria when she shows how torn she is between her love for Alvaro and duty to her family, through to her Act II prayer ‘Madre, pietosa Virgine’ and then her Act IV pleading for divine absolution and peace from her torments, ‘Pace, mio Dio.’ The roles of the bitterly clashing Don Alvaro - tenor, Marcello Giordani - and Leonora’s brother, Don Carlo di Vargas sung by baritone, Carlo Guelfi are well cast. Their solo arias are forceful and their duets powerfully dramatic. The two voices contrast and blend most strikingly. Julia Gertsever makes for a feisty gypsy Preziosilla especially as she rouses the troops to ‘battle not bottles’ in Act III. Bruno De Simone, looking amazingly like Phil Silvers playing Sergeant Bilko, offers welcome comic relief as Fra Melitone. Roberto Scandiuzzi is a suitably solemn Padre Guardiano. The whole is directed with great vigour by Mehta.
Slightly flawed nevertheless a powerful La Forza Del Destino.
Ian Lace