The Express, Mar 26, 2019
|By WILLIAM HARTSTON
Verdi: La forza del destino, London, ab 21. März 2019
Opera Review: La Forza Del Destino at Royal Opera House
When two of the world's most acclaimed operatic superstars in the
cast, Verdi's Forza Del Destino was widely seen as promising to be one of
the highlights of world opera this year.
viewed by many as the world's greatest tenor, and Anna Netrebko, praised by
just as many as the finest soprano, had not appeared together at Covent
Garden for over a decade and seats for the opening night were reporting to
be changing hands for thousands of pounds. When Kaufmann was unable to
appear at the dress rehearsal, many must have felt their investment was in
danger but we need not have worried. He turned up for the first night, and
Such hyped events often fail to come up to
expectations, but with Netrebko also on stunning form, this one surpassed
The two of them are perhaps the finest singer/actors of our
time and to see both together was a treat.
The title of Verdi's Forza
Del Destino is frankly rather pretentious.
The tragedy that it charts
is not so much the force of destiny as a succession of unlikely
Leonora (Netrebko) and Alvaro (Kaufmann) are in love
and plan to elope.
When he leaps through a window to sweep her off,
however, she asks for a brief extension to her Leonexit so that she can say
goodbye to her Dad the marquis (excellently played by Robert Lloyd), but
while they are negotiating, he bursts into the room, confronts them and
threatens Alvaro with a sword.
Alvaro points a gun at him, but drops
it to indicate his peaceful nature.
On hitting the ground, however,
the gun goes off and kills the marquis who has time to curse both of them
before he dies.
Leonora's brother, Don Carlo di Vargas (superbly
played and sung by Ludovic Tézier), then vows to pursue and kill both of
them, which sets the plot for the rest of the opera.
Fleeing from the
scene, Leonora and Alvaro are separated.
Leonora becomes a hermit,
hidden in a monastery; Alvaro becomes a soldier, in which role he saves the
life of Leonora's brother, when both men have changed their names to avoid
detection so accidentally become best friends without knowing they are
While all this is going on, Verdi lightens the mood
with a couple of highly unlikely dance sequences and a gypsy fortune teller,
and Leonora's monastery includes a comic monk called Melitone (deliciously
played by Alessandro Corbelli) who introduces more light relief when the
story least needs it.
Taken individually, the dancing and comedy are
excellently done, but any attempt to integrate them into the story is bound
to fail and this production wisely refrains from even trying.
up for the vagaries of the plot, however, Antonio Pappano conducting the
Royal Opera House Orchestra lifts Verdi's music to exceptional heights.
Setting a perfect tempo throughout, varying the volume between a
resounding blast of the force of destiny and the whisper of despair, and
keeping a superb balance between singers and orchestra players, he shows his
absolute mastery of Verdi's music.
Even with Kaufmann and Netrebko in
the cast, it was Pappano and the orchestra who received the biggest cheers
at the end.
I was surprised, however, to hear a small amount of
booing when Christof Loy's directorial team came on stage at the end.
Some aspects of the production, such as the occasional projection of
large images of the cast onto the set, seemed an unnecessary distraction,
but in general they avoided the temptation of too much directional
Rather than criticise what they did, it seems to be they
deserve at least some respect for the things they didn't do.
evening of such excellence ought never to receive any boos.