Latest Review – La Forza del Destino [Royal Opera House]

Photo by Bill Cooper


The Royal Opera House

Until 22 April 2019

Anytime opera megastars Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann take to the stage it becomes something of a major event in the opera world, particularly when they appear together, and for this production of Verdi’s ambitious La Forza del Destino, The Royal Opera has pulled out all the stops, bringing together a truly heavyweight cast including Netrebko and Kaufmann, as well as the exceptional Ludovic Tézier, Ferruccio Furlanetto and Alessandro Corbelli, all under the baton of the great Antonio Pappano.

Based on an 1835 Spanish drama by Ángel de Saavedra, 3rd Duke of Rivas, and with a libretto written by Francesco Maria Piave, La Forza del Destino is a dark and intense tale of guilt, revenge and fate, driven by some of Verdi’s most under-appreciated music, and played out against a backdrop of religion and war.

Photo by Bill Cooper

First staged by Dutch National Opera in 2017, Christof Loy’s and often minimalist production transports Verdi’s mid-18th century set opera to 20th century Spain and Italy, though aside from some effective moments, it is a staging that can often complicate matters a little too much, incorporating modern devices, contemporary dance, and surreal, comedic elements that don’t quite gel with the intense and sinister nature of the piece.

Christian Schmidt’s composite set works well and serves as a backdrop for a number of different locations, though again, some of the more modern designs and decorations, notably in the chorus sequences and scenes with the gypsy/fortune-teller Preziosilla, do feel at odds. The back projections can however be effective and serve as a reminder of the tragedy that sparked Verdi’s tale of revenge during moments of significance and reflection.

Anna Netrebko delivers one of her finest performances to date as Leonora, singing the role for the very first time, and demonstrating a rich, technically-sublime soprano that sounds as glorious as ever. Once a lyric soprano specialising in lighter Bel Canto roles, Netrebko’s voice has developed into a darker spinto soprano as she has moved into the weightier soprano roles, and though more than capable of tackling the powerful, dramatic demands, it is a voice that still retains the warmth, colour and delicacy of old.

Jonas Kaufmann too is on top form as Leonora’s guilt-ridden suitor, Don Alvaro, delivering a passionate and fully committed performance as well as treating audiences to the full force of that extraordinary tenor voice.

Photo by Bill Cooper

French baritone Ludovic Tézier completes the starry principle trio with a thrilling and utterly compelling perfomance as Leonora’s revenge driven brother, Don Carlo, doggedly pursuing the man he holds responsible for the death of his father in a manner that closely echoes the relationship between Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in Victor Hugo’s epic novel, Les Miserables, publishing the same year as La Forza first premiered. Tézier sings with an incredible richness and intensity throughout and his powerful scenes with Kaufmann are electrifying.

Ferruccio Furlanetto gives added weight and authority to the production as Padre Guardiano, proving why he remains one of the most sought-after basses around, and that expert character actor, Alessandro Corbelli, does excellent work as the darkly humorous Fra Melitone.

Maestro Pappano conducts the orchestra in an exhilarating, high-energy performance, living and breathing Verdi’s wonderfully ambitious score as he always does.

There may be issues with the staging and designs, but this La Forza is all about the star wattage, and the principle cast deliver some of the finest and most enthralling vocal performances you are likely to hear.

Running Time: 3 hour and 55-minutes (approx.), including two 25-minute intervals.

Final Performance at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden: Monday 22 April 2019

For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.

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