Tuesday, May 28

La Forza del Destino – Met Opera Live in HD

It has been some thirty years since there was a new production of this opera at the Met and twenty years since that’s last production with a more recent attempt in 2017 faltering due to financial reasons. Well, the financial challenges remain, as they do for all of us, so it was a treat to take in Director Mariusz Treliński’s dark contemporary re-telling which coming in at almost four and a half hours, including two intervals, is a big production in every sense.

Leonora (Lise Davidsen) plans to elope with Alvaro (Brian Jagde) but when her father, the Marquis of Calatrava (Soloman Howard), storms in, Alvaro’s attempts to make peace accidentally results in her father’s death. Leonora flees from her revengeful brother, Carlo (Igor Golovatenko), and whilst Preziosilla (Judit Kutasi) sings a hymn to the impending war, Leonora seeks refuge at a monastery from Fra Melitone (Patrick Carfizzi) before Padre Guardiano (Howard) offers her sanctuary.

Alvaro, now a leading army commander, rescues Carlo from a brawl and the two become friends, but when Alvaro is badly injured in battle, Carlo discovers his friend is in fact his enemy, and rejoices at the news that Alvaro will survive so that he can take his revenge. But will he? Or will Leonora and Alvaro be reconciled? There’s all to play, and fight, for in Verdi’s dramatic work exploring the complexities of hope and despair; of finding unity or seeking solitude; the solace in religion versus the inevitability of doom; discovering your enemy within the heart of friendship.

Davidsen was the poster girl for the production, alongside conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin as poster boy, so it was disappointing to discover that she is only singing the first six performances before handing over to someone else. Davidsen is second to none in Germanic opera – Wagner; Strauss – but it was evident that whilst she displays a powerful instrument, it is perhaps too bold for the subtle nuanced enunciation required for this opera.

Jagde is one of the Met’s leading tenors but his opening with Davidsen was unsteady and there was a distinct lack of chemistry between the two. To his credit he came into his own from Act III onwards, mainly I believe because of Golavatenko whose opening arias captured the anger and sadness of his character and their subsequent duets reflected the mood and emotion as events unravel.

Howard’s double casting was a clever idea as Leonora transfers her allegiances from one family to another and whilst his singing felt a little underpowered and forced, his Act IV duet with Carfizzi balanced power and flexibility that Verdi requires. Carfizzi provided the necessary comic timing that his role demands with clear diction and articulation. Kutasi, on her Met debut, was uneven in voice and performance although in her defence, her character isn’t given enough time to develop either so it will be another role before we get to see what she can truly offer.

The orchestra led by Nézet-Séguin served up a stirring overture which was accompanied by set designer Boris Kudlička’s visual treat on stage, and on the whole stayed on course throughout the evening with clarinettist Anton Rist’s introduction to Alvaro’s aria a particular pleasure. The big success for me was the chorus, under famed Chorus Master Donald Palumbo who bows out at the end of this season, who reflected the changing moods that move back and forth from a boisterous inn through the almost acapella Rataplan in the camp to the calm solace of an off-stage Latin hymn, becoming an organ for La Vergine degli Angelo accompanying the beautiful harp arpeggio.

Treliński’s gripping interpretation of this classic drew strongly from his cinematic background with Bartek Macias’ projection and Marc Heinz’s lighting providing a contemporary visual context for a world of dictators and wars which we could all too sadly relate to, with the turntable stage cleverly moving the action on whilst demonstrating how little control we have as life and the world continue to revolve and evolve and we are left powerless in the hands of destiny.

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 9th March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.