Verdi: La forza del destino, London, ab 21. März 2019
Netrebko and Kaufmann Shine as Doomed Lovers at the Royal Opera
The soprano Anna Netrebko and the tenor Jonas Kaufmann come with a lot of hype. The best this, the most exciting that, the greatest whatsit. And guess what? - They really deliver. And then deliver some more.

They star in the Royal Opera’s new production of “La forza del destino” by Verdi, as the doomed lovers Leonora and Alvaro. They get a cracking scene together at the beginning, but after Alvaro accidentally kills Leonora’s father, fate (that’s the “destino” of the title) keeps them apart until the end. It’s a pity, because together they rock the stage. Her rich soaring voice compliments his passionate tingling top notes, and they act up a storm. Later Leonora becomes a monk (the madness of opera, eh?) and Alvaro does heroic things in the army, and their individual scenes here are stupendously good: but the bookending duets are the ticket.

And Christof Loy’s staging? There have been worse productions at Covent Garden, but there have been a lot better too. Loy sets the action in a boring beige room which has to serve for a home, a tavern, a military camp and a monastery. When filled with crowds of extra paupers, monks, prostitutes, soldiers and the like, it looks cramped and awkward. The costumes riff on various styles ranging from the 19th Century to the 1930s, but the vagueness feels non-committal rather than suggestive. Otto Pichler’s choreography for a big gypsy number – complete with Bob Fosse-type top hats and guys in spangly tights, and sung by suboptimal mezzo Veronica Simeoni – is cringingly awful too. Despite this, Loy does his best to make the principal points of Verdi’s sprawling plot clear, and for that we should be thankful.

There’s plenty more to be thankful for too. With his ringing and heroic voice, Baritone Ludovic Tézier is an ideal Verdian from top to toe, and he has a lot of fun chewing the scenery as a vengeful nemesis who chases the fugitive lovers through the course of the opera. Basso profundo Ferruccio Furlanetto is luxury casting too as the kindly old priest Padre Guardiano. And conductor Antonio Pappano does wonderful things in the pit, drawing sumptuous sounds from the strings, and keeping the tension at fever pitch.

 back top