Saturday, September 10, 2016

La Forza del Destino on DVD

Papa, Don Carlo, Leonora, Curra, priest, servant

Conductor Asher Fisch
Production Martin Kušej

Il Marchese di Calatrava / Padre Guardiano: Vitalij Kowaljow
Donna Leonora: Anja Harteros
Don Carlo di Vargas: Ludovic Tézier
Don Alvaro: Jonas Kaufmann
Preziosilla: Nadia Krasteva
Fra Melitone: Renato Girolami
Curra: Heike Grötzinger
Un alcade: Christian Rieger
Mastro Trabuco: Francesco Petrozzi
Un chirurgo: Rafał Pawnuk

I saw this streamed from the Bayerische Staatsoper in 2013, and now it has come out on DVD.   I am trying to decide if it makes more sense the second time around.

Forza is a problematic opera.  The music is some of Verdi's best.  I think when I was young it was far more popular than Don Carlo.  I can't say if this is due to the fact that it was one of Leontyne Price's more prominent operas, is in fact the only currently available DVD of a full length opera film of her in Amazon.  The plot centers around the evil brother who is simply nasty for little apparent reason.

Act I.  Don Alvaro has apparently been invited to dinner.  The family along with their priest wait around the table, but he doesn't arrive.  His empty chair can be seen above.  Ultimately he comes, and he has a gun.


And somewhat more obviously he has hair.  Papa doesn't like him, and we know why.  He's a hippie, and fathers of girlfriends never like hippies.  There's probably another back story somewhere.  He tries to cool off papa and ends up throwing the gun on the ground.  It goes off and shoots papa.  This was very well staged.  An open space separates papa from Alvaro, and he throws the gun out into the open space.  One sees the flash.  Usually this part of the plot is completely botched, and the audience has no idea what happened without reading it in the program.  Here it is very clear.  Papa curses daughter and dies.

Act II.  Separated from Alvaro, Leonora is at an inn where she sees her brother still dressed in his green sweater, though now he looks like Ludovic Tézier.  This both works and doesn't work.  It works because it tells us he is the brother from the previous scene.  It doesn't work because the child in the previous scene is too young.  He needs to be at least 16.  Or why is he still wearing the same sweater after so many years?

It's very dark and hard to see much of anything.  The table is still there, and papa still lies dead on the floor.  Leonora is still in her black dress, but seeing brother she slips into this mysterious disguise which she finds on the floor under the table in a case.  Does this make any sense at all?  The disguise may be the best part of the production, along with Jonas's hair.


Preziosilla sings for the customers.  She's recruiting for the army.

Leonora arrives at the monastery and asks for entry.  The table is still there, but papa no longer lies dead on the floor.  Only a couple of chairs plus the cross from the table remain.  The main priest at the monastery is the same singer as papa.  They dicker, but eventually he gives in and lets her stay.

They let her inside where there is a huge basin of water and a bunch of rag tag men in white suits.  They submerge her in the water as in an immersion baptism, three times fast and then one time slowly.  They perform the "La vergine degli Angeli."  It isn't exactly Catholic, so perhaps a cult of some kind.  This is one of the more gorgeous things Verdi ever wrote.

Act III.  This is the war act.  When Don Carlo and Don Alvaro meet, they pledge eternal friendship because Alvaro has saved Carlo's life.  When Carlo discovers who Alvaro is, he tries to kill him.  Alvaro decides to go into a monastery, the same one Leonora is in.



Act IV.  The greatest aria of this opera is in this act:  "Pace pace."  Alvaro is hiding, but Carlo finds him anyway.  Alvaro mortally wounds Carlo who manages to kill Leonora before he dies.  These three great singers do beautiful justice to this opera, but it still leaves a nasty taste in ones mouth.

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