Seen and Heard International, 24/07/2017
|José M. Irurzun
Verdi: La forza del destino, Bayerische Staatsoper, 23. Juli 2017
Anja Harteros Comes to the Rescue of a Tedious Verdi Production
The impressive night of music at the Munich opera with Lady Macbeth of the
Mtsensk District (review click here) was followed by a somewhat tedious
Verdi performance. Only Anja Harteros fully met my expectations.
forza del destino is one of the most uneven of Verdi’s operas. There are
some splendid passages, among the finest he ever wrote, along with others of
lesser quality. Among the former are the tenor and baritone duos and
Leonora’s aria as she enters the monastery. Among the latter is the music
Verdi composed for Preziosilla’s and Melitone’s scenes. With all the musical
irregularities it isn’t easy to make this opera succeed.
Kušej production premiered here in 2013, coinciding with the second
centenary of Verdi’s birth. Beyond bringing the action up to modern times,
there is little of interest, and the stage direction is particularly poor,
especially in the crowd scenes. Other Kušej productions offer some
underlying central ideas, but I cannot find a single one here.
sets offer two different scenarios. In Act I there is a dining room where
the Calatrava family is seated at a large table. Basically the same stage
serves for Leonora as she goes into the monastery. Act III in Italy features
some sort of cave with different levels, while the last act moves to what
appears to be a field full of crosses. One prop is always present on stage:
the large table, which allows for various gymnastic exhibitions by the
singers. Leonora and Don Carlo, seated on chairs, die at the table. The
monks are members of some sect. It would have been better if an attempt had
been made to disguise Leonora in Act II set in the village of Hornachuelos:
it is pathetic that her brother looks right at her face but does not
recognize her. Even more out of place is the presence of Calatrava’s corpse
throughout the entire Hornachuelos scene.
Whether the decision was
Mr. Kušej’s or the musical director’s, the version used is the revised one
done for Milan in 1869 with some cuts. It includes the scene of the first
duel of Don Alvaro and Don Carlo, although the location is quite curious.
And it is more than surprising to have Don Carlo sing ‘Urna fatale’ in front
of the unconscious Don Alvaro. Barely a second has passed after the wounded
and unconscious Don Alvaro is seen by the doctor when the latter announces
to Don Carlo that Alvaro is saved.
Asher Fisch’s conducting was
fairly boring, especially after hearing Kirill Petrenko the day before. La
forza del destino has enough problems without a mediocre conductor in the
pit. The Bayerische Staatsorchester did not perform well, but the chorus was
Jonas Kaufmann returned to Munich after his debut as
Otello in Covent Garden, but his performance was not up to the level that
one always expects from such a magnificent tenor. There were many
precautions on his part. He was disappointing in the first act but improved
in Act III though without reaching the level he has attained before in the
same character and in this theatre. He really only excelled in the final
act. Between this Don Alvaro and the one of three years ago, there was a
Anja Harteros was once again a great Leonora,
and undoubtedly the best of the entire cast. Her performance in the
monastery scene was pure perfection, and her much-anticipated ‘Pace, pace’
was magnificent, the best moment of the whole night. She is an exceptional
singer, at the level now with the greatest in the history of opera.
Baritone Simone Piazzola gave life to Don Carlo di Vargas, and he did well,
although it was far from what Ludovic Tezier offered three years ago. Mr.
Piazzola’s voice has lost volume in recent years, and his performance was
Vitalij Kowaljow repeated as Father Guardian
and doubled as Calatrava. His voice is attractive and he handles it well.
Nadia Krasteva as Preziosilla was not particularly interesting, and
presented some shouted high notes.
Ambrogio Maestri was suitable in
the role of Fra Melitone, and Trabuco was nicely interpreted by Matthew
Grills. The Mayor – here more of an innkeeper – was well served by Christian
Rieger. Heike Grötzinger was a correct Curra.
The Nationaltheater was
once again sold out. The audience offered a triumphant reception to the
artists, and particularly to Anja Harteros and Jonas Kaufmann in that order.