Tuesday, May 14, 2013

La Forza del Destino – Opera Royal de Liege, Wallonie

Luciano Montanaro and Daniele Dessi
Under the laid back musical leadership of Paolo Arrivabeni, La Forza del Destino at the Opera Royal de Liege, Wallonie is another night for the basses and baritones. Domenico Balzani does well as the cranky Fra Melitone, and Giovanni Meoni as Don Carlo acquits himself ably, matching his tenor rival pretty much note-for-note. Best of all is Luciano Montanaro—profound, warm, pious, and reassuring as Il Padre Guardiano. Mezzo Carla Dirlikov is pretty and perky but comes across as a tame (and mature-sounding) gypsy, and Giovanni Iovino’s Trabuco just made me sad.

Our Leonora and Alvaro both seem pretty worn out in this performance. Daniele Dessi is at her best here when singing gently. She’s much more convincing vocally in Acts 2 and 4 than at the beginning. She manages to put across the big aria in Act 4, but does not thrill—at least not the way I was hoping for. Poor Fabio Armiliato is almost always under pitch. He looks tired, and actually sounds hoarse in Act 4.

The sets and lights look nice, but I found Francesco Maestrini’s staging to be disengaging. When Carlo and Alvaro are fighting, they seem more concerned about what the conductor is doing than tangling with each other. The anger is not very threatening, and their soldier buddies don’t have much of a fight to break up. When the pesants/soliders/gypsies are singing, they sound nice, and look nice—as they stand in attractive tableaux.

When Leonora and Alvaro recognize each other in Act 4, I expect some enthusiasm—a little drama, maybe some shock and surprise. Especially since they’ve been living practically next door to each other for five years without realizing it. I’d like to see something stronger than, “Oh hi. How you been?” And the same thing in Leonora’s death. This is Italian opera. Let’s have some weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I don’t know if this is a standard switch, but in this production they flip two scenes in Act 3 (based on the synopsis and libretto I was following.) This actually made sense, as it puts some time between Carlo and Alvaro’s two confrontations, gives Alvaro time to heal from his battle wounds, and separates the two big “dramatic relief” chorus scenes. 

(With all the recent discussion about knowing (and not knowing) what Wagner—and other composers—“intended” in their opera productions, it’s good to remember that many an opera composer made many a change from one performance to the next. Not having researched it, I can’t say for sure, but I’d bet that this scene order has been tinkered with more than once!)

All in all, this is not the best introduction to Forza. At least, I hope not. To be honest this was my first time. While not terribly satisfying, this performance at least whetted my appetite for an alternate, hopefully more dramatic and excitingly sung Forza. All that being said, the production is available for viewing for about six months at arte.tv, so don't just take my word for it. Check it out yourself, at least to hear basso 
Luciano Montanaro

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