Sunday Times, 31 March 2019
Hugh Canning
Verdi: La forza del destino, London, ab 21. März 2019
La forza del destino, Royal Opera
A masterly Antonio Pappano leads the Royal Opera in a triumphant Forza

During 27 years of visits to Covent Garden, I can count the great Verdi nights on the fingers of one hand: the 1976 visit of Abbado's La Scala company with an almost unbeatable cast in Simon Boccanegra: the 1980 ROH revival of Otello conducted by Kleiber with Domingo and Price, and revivals of Luisa Miller with Katia Ricciarelli singing opposite Domingo, Carlo Bergonzi and Jose Carreras. I would put the ROH production of Le Forza del destino in that august company., for Antonio Pappano's masterly conducting of Verdi's most sprawling, sometimes incoherent mature work...….Loy's thoughtful, occasionally brash staging meanwhile, first seen in Amsterdam in 2017 succeeds in making sense of the actions long time span and far flung locations. Loy's masterstroke is to direct the drama in basically, a single modular set, the home of the Calatrava family, whose lives are blighted by the power of fate, the force of destiny.

In the long overture.....showing the Calatrava family at different stages of their life. When the children are small, the youngest has a seizure and their mother is still there, but when Carlo and Leonora are adolescents the mother and younger sibling have disappeared. Loy implies that the family have already suffered fatal losses, preparing the ground for the fatal killing of their father, and Carlo's lifelong pursuit of revenge on his sister and her lover, the guilt wracked Don Alvaro. None of this is in Piave's libretto, but Loy has clearly investigated its source, a long derelict Spanish play by Angel de Saavvedra in which Leonora has two brothers, both killed in their vendetta. At the end of the opera she returns to the scene of her father's killing disguised as a hermit. Loy's psychological direction might benefit from doubling the bass roles of Calatrava and Padre G. as in Kusej's Munich staging, suggesting these father figures as split personalities of Leonora's imagination. …

…...The true stars are, however, Pappano conducting this mid Verdi with customary drive and momentum, yet lingering over orchestral details-the superb clarinet obbligato to Don Alvaro's great scene deserves special mention - with his pliant shaping of these great melodies, and second the principals. AN voluminous voice sounds effortless as Leonora, one of the most demanding of Verdi's great soprano roles lavish in her gradation of dynamics, with ravishing high pianissimi, and rising to thrilling heights in her magnificent maledizioni at the climax of her famous act 4 aria Pace Pace. I'd like to say she is at her peak in this lirico spinto role, vocally in complete command of Verdi's music, even if her declamation of the text could be more incisively delivered. She has sung once before with JK, in Traviata at Covent Garden in 2006 when she was already a star, and he was on the way up. They make a compelling romantic pair, she radiant, if anxious, he brooding and dishevelled, dark toned as Alvaro. This role is less of a stretch for Kaufmann than Otello, and Pappano encourages him to respect Verdi's p and pp markings. I doubt any Italian tenor could match him for musicianship, even if he lacks a native's trumpet tone. His baritone rival Ludovic Tezier is Netrebko's technical equal and vocally he is well matched to Kaufmann in their several duets, even if he cuts a less charismatic figure on stage as Don Carlo. The cast of principals is competed by AC as Melitone, a perfect fit for this grumpy basso role, and VS as the camp follower Preziosilla. Loy makes her the cheerleader of the big choral scene on the battlefield, encouraging a lively sextet of top hat wearing dancers, a different sort of camp follower choreographed by ...Pichler in appropriate showbiz style. It makes an entertaining interlude of Verdi's sometimes embarrassingly jaunty music for a battle scarred landscape, A Royal Opera triumph.

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