BLOUINART, MARCH 26, 2019
|BY WARWICK THOMPSON
Verdi: La forza del destino, London, ab 21. März 2019
Netrebko and Kaufmann Shine as Doomed Lovers at the Royal Opera
The soprano Anna Netrebko and the tenor Jonas Kaufmann come with a lot of
hype. The best this, the most exciting that, the greatest whatsit. And guess
what? - They really deliver. And then deliver some more.
They star in
the Royal Opera’s new production of “La forza del destino” by Verdi, as the
doomed lovers Leonora and Alvaro. They get a cracking scene together at the
beginning, but after Alvaro accidentally kills Leonora’s father, fate
(that’s the “destino” of the title) keeps them apart until the end. It’s a
pity, because together they rock the stage. Her rich soaring voice
compliments his passionate tingling top notes, and they act up a storm.
Later Leonora becomes a monk (the madness of opera, eh?) and Alvaro does
heroic things in the army, and their individual scenes here are stupendously
good: but the bookending duets are the ticket.
And Christof Loy’s
staging? There have been worse productions at Covent Garden, but there have
been a lot better too. Loy sets the action in a boring beige room which has
to serve for a home, a tavern, a military camp and a monastery. When filled
with crowds of extra paupers, monks, prostitutes, soldiers and the like, it
looks cramped and awkward. The costumes riff on various styles ranging from
the 19th Century to the 1930s, but the vagueness feels non-committal rather
than suggestive. Otto Pichler’s choreography for a big gypsy number –
complete with Bob Fosse-type top hats and guys in spangly tights, and sung
by suboptimal mezzo Veronica Simeoni – is cringingly awful too. Despite
this, Loy does his best to make the principal points of Verdi’s sprawling
plot clear, and for that we should be thankful.
There’s plenty more
to be thankful for too. With his ringing and heroic voice, Baritone Ludovic
Tézier is an ideal Verdian from top to toe, and he has a lot of fun chewing
the scenery as a vengeful nemesis who chases the fugitive lovers through the
course of the opera. Basso profundo Ferruccio Furlanetto is luxury casting
too as the kindly old priest Padre Guardiano. And conductor Antonio Pappano
does wonderful things in the pit, drawing sumptuous sounds from the strings,
and keeping the tension at fever pitch.