|Preziosilla is onto Carlos's game.|
(Note: picture is a different cast, though same Preziosilla.)
(Photo: Opera Chic)
Verdi, La forza del destino. Production by David Pountney, conducted by Philippe Auguin. With Eva-Maria Westbroek (Leonora), Fabio Armiliato (Alvaro), Zeljko Lucic (Don Carlos), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Padre Guardiano), Tomasz Konieczny (Fra Melitone), Nadia Krasteva (Preziosilla)If you’ve ever met me, I’ve probably told you how you have to read War and Peace. (Because you do. It’s wonderful in every way. It’s my favorite novel.) La forza del destino is kind of like War and Peace. Shit happens, some personal and some global-historical, and sometimes there’s little the characters can do to control it. They wander through things that are larger then themselves. Some glory in the chaos (Preziosilla) , others try to hide from it (Leonora, eventually Alvaro). In the opera, you don’t have Tolstoy’s narrative voice telling you all the fateful stuff. But if you’re at the Staatsoper, you have David Pountney, who’s even more pedantic.
As suggested by the opening video of a butterfly starting an enormous wheel, the production is about coincidences and unintended consequences (I was sadly distracted through the whole overture). Christianity provides a kind of anchor for these characters adrift, who finally all end up assailing the monastery for help and guidance. The inn is a place of momentary respite, where many Bibles seem to provide a veneer of security. The period is sometime during the twentieth century, but only vaguely so (there are still swords for dueling). As an interpretation it makes sense, but it hits you over the head a few times too often. Moreover, its extreme minimalism and attendant demurral to create a world outside the principal characters undermine the portrayal of larger forces (of DESTINY) at work. When we’re suddenly at war in Act 3 the means are not great enough to give us any real atmosphere, just some halfhearted projections. Destiny’s force never seems adequately cataclysmic.
|Crosses, crosses everywhere (Photo: Wiener Staatsoper)|
The score suffered from some major cuts, particularly in the choral and minor character material of Act 3. Not that I really miss Preziosilla’s “Al suon del tamburo” and Trabuco’s aria as such, but they give this opera its texture, its wildly incoherent patchwork of random events and moments that confuses the characters as much as it does me. Making Forza neater seems to go against its spirit. And the one major rearrangement--reordering some scenes in Act 3 so the tenor and baritone get a break between their duets and then cutting directly to the Rataplan--destroys the wonderful sequence of the Act 3 finale entirely.
|Opening scene (Photo: Wiener Staatsoper)|
The singing was mostly very good, though not transcendental enough to overrule these production and conductor-ly deficiencies. Fabio Armiliato offered solid and admirable Italian tenoring with good phrasing and intonation, fine coloring and very loud and rich high notes, faulted by a muscley and dry tone at the passaggio and below. I feel kind of bad for never warming to him, but he failed to grab me somehow. His acting is generic but he does manage to look impressively Jesus-like in Act 4 in a long white robe with his short beard and longish hair. I think this was unintentional. If it wasn’t, I have no idea what it was supposed to signify.
|Act 3. Several of the upper parts of this set were MIA last night.|
Photo: Der Standard
Zeljko Lucic has plenty of volume for Don Carlos and sang his aria with real beauty and musicality, but he seems too fundamentally decent and his voice too lyrically gentle for a villain who kills his own sister. I would love to hear him as Boccanegra, but am not convinced of his Verdi-villain status. Tomasz Konieczny, as Melitone, had a metallic edge to his voice that made me think he would have been more suitable, if less opulent. Ferruccio Furlanetto is not the type to be confined to near-last in a cast list and I’m rather surprised to see him singing such a small role as Padre Guardiano. It was lovely, and his duet with Westbroek had, along with Lucic’s aria, the best singing of the night, but, still. It’s minor. Nadia Krasteva as Preziosilla had the misfortune to get totally lost in Auguin’s manical tempo for the Rataplan, but otherwise didn’t sound bad and, hey, she can do both a split and a backbend.
Finally, a Great Moment in Opera Titles: “The bullet in his chest worries me.” (“La palla che ha nel petto mi spaventa.”) (Even in Italian it is somewhat dry, but “mi spaventa” is more properly “scares me.”)
Bows, another lousy in-house photo from me:
Next: The Semele prima is tomorrow but I need a break and think I’ll go on Friday.