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Subject: Re: More on Forza at the Met
From: Geoffrey Riggs <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Geoffrey Riggs <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 23 May 2017 00:31:06 -0400

text/plain (168 lines)

On Mon, 22 May 2017 22:10:56 -0400, Max D. Winter <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>I did some spot checking on some Met broadcasts of "Forza" starting in
1943, with the 
>revival under Bruno Walter.  (Forza was not performed at the Met between
1935 and 1943.)  
>The review of the opening night of the 1943 performance notes that the Met
was using the 
>German performing edition by Franz Werfel and that the overture was placed
after the first 
>scene, so that particular practice obviously started pre-Bing.  Checking
the broadcast, the 
>1943 performance includes the Inn Scene but omits the "Sleale!" duet, the
act moving 
>directly from "Egli e salvo" to the Camp Scene and ending with "Rataplan!"  
>As has been noted, during the Bing years the overture followed the opening
scene and the 
>Inn Scene was always omitted.  The "Compagni" chorus and the "Sleale" duet
were usually 
>performed but the placement varied: in the 1952 and 1956 broadcasts
"Sleale" comes 
>before "Rataplan!" but in 1960 it ends the act and the "Compagni" chorus
precedes the 
>Camp Scene.  in 1954 we get "Compagni" before the Camp Scene but both
"Sleale" and 
>"Rataplan" are cut.  (Was "Sleale" cut to accommodate the tenor, Gino
Penno?)   "Rataplan" 
>is also cut in the 1972 broadcast, possibly because it was beyond Nedda
Casei's ability to 
>bring off. 
>Starting in 1975, the "Sleale" duet regularly follows the Camp Scene and
ends Act III.  The 
>Inn Scene is also restored, although the little "Compagni" chorus before
Alvaro's recitative 
>preceding "Sleale" is apparently always omitted.  
>Pre-1943 (the earliest Forza broadcast), it is possible to infer from some
of the reviews 
>which scenes were performed and which were cut.  A March 1919 review from
>(where the Met performed one night a week) suggests that the "Sleale" duet
was omitted, 
>because in reviewing Caruso's performance, the reviewer specifically
mentions "O tu che in 
>seno" and the "Solenne in quest'ora," and "Le minaccie" duets with the
baritone, but no 
>mention is made of the "Sleale" duet, which if included would surely have
been mentioned.  
>On the other hand, Caruso did record the duet with De Luca, so....  The Inn
Scene is 
>specifically mentioned in several reviews, so that scene appears to have
been performed, at 
>least intermittently, from 1918 until the Berman production under Bing.  A
1926 review 
>from Cleveland mentions that the overture was played "between the first and
second acts" 
>(scenes?).  So this practice apparently dated back quite a ways.
>Regarding the "Sleale" duet, a review of a tour performance in Baltimore in
1928 mentions 
>that the third act "includes the intensely dramatic moments between [Alvaro
and Carlo] 
>when their real identity is disclosed."  Is this a reference to "Sleale?"
>The opera apparently was restaged for the revival in 1930, but the only
oddity noted was 
>that the "Rataplan" chorus was sung by an octet of women rather than as a
solo for 
>So, the performing editions of "Forza del Destino" at the Met have varied
considerably over 
>the years.  We should be grateful that at least we now get the Overture in
its proper place!

I might seriously consider, instead of snipping out sequences like the
superb "Sleale" duet (often a traditional cut but really essential to
making any sense out of Alvaro's recognizing Carlo in the last act:
"Don Carlo! Voi! Vivente!"), cutting the inn scene to the bare bone
(retaining Don Carlo's "Son Pereda" and Leonora's few lines of prayer,
thus making sense of Leonora's "La mia orrenda storia" etc. lines in
the next scene, but dispensing with most of the rest), snipping out
the camp scene altogether (yes, and I might even find some way of
cutting out Preziosilla from the entire opera altogether or just
leaving her a comprimario), and perhaps having Guardiano and Melitone
alone at the start of the last act with nothing of the soup kitchen
left in.

Shocking, maybe, though less shocking, I feel, than leaving out the
"Sleale", which is the peripeteia of the whole drama, but which was an
(outrageous) conventional discard in too many productions for too much
of the past century!

Well, if I was feeling really disrespectful, I might consider
something like this (and this is partly tongue-in-cheek): Start off
with the overture, followed by the opening scene together with the
extremely trimmed inn scene as the bulk of Act One. Then I might have
a full intermission for the soprano before the monastery, making the
monastery the first scene of Act Two, and then changing the first
scene of Act Three on the battlefield to scene two of Act Two, turning
Carlo's "Egli e salvo" into a cabaletta finale of the whole second act.

After a full intermission to give Alvaro and Carlo a rest, I might
plunge right in with the "Sleale" duet as the first scene of the third
and final act. After that, Alvaro and Carlo would still need a rest,
so in place of the excised camp scene, I might submit my most
tongue-in-cheek and disrespectful proposal of all: Open the next and
last scene with Leonora's "Pace" _prior_ to Guardiano's and Melitone's
colloquy re "Padre Rafaele" (sp.?) and set the entire act outside
Leonora's refuge.

It gets more outrageous: I've always felt that the bulk of Leonora's
"Pace" is some of the most sublime music ever penned, while the
"Misero pane" (sp.?) coda has always struck me as an awkward add-on
for the sole purpose of giving the soprano a boffo ending on a high
note. Moreover, this coda refers to a duel offstage that, in this
high-handed arrangement, hasn't yet taken place. Removing my tongue
from my cheek momentarily, I have to say that the words ending "invan
spero" right before this coda are, to me, set as a sublime cadence
that ends the chief melody of this aria on a haunting tonic, and I
have sometimes wished the music could close gently right there. Well,
fine then, let's end "Pace" right there for real, have Leonora go back
dejectedly to her hut on this quiet close, followed, after tumultuous
applause, with Melitone and Guardiano coming on and talking about this
"Padre Rafaele" (sp.?), with Guardiano and Melitone quietly laying out
Leonora's food as they talk. There is no doorbell for Carlo's
entrance, since he's simply stumbled on a startled Melitone in his
vengeful wanderings (this would snip out maybe half a dozen lines,
confining the exchange strictly to Carlo's request that Alvaro/the
"Padre" be brought over by Melitone).

The big duel scene would flow right into Alvaro's desperate attempt at
succour for the wounded Carlo, who would be stabbed right on stage,
followed, without a break (except applause for the duet), by Alvaro's
immediately walking up and knocking on Leonora's door, Leonora being
stabbed by Carlo right onstage, followed by Guardiano's entrance, who
would come on too late, running from the monastery right on stage, as
a result of Leonora's having rung her alarum bell as in the original.
This whole final sequence could be staged this way without cutting
any of the music.

No question that this means, for one thing, that both Preziosilla and
Melitone are now turned into pure comprimario parts. There is nothing
distinctive left for them to do. In an uncharitable mood, though, I
might shrug my shoulders and say, "So what?"

O.K., rant over;-)

Geoffrey Riggs

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