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Subject: Münchner Opernfestspiele: La Forza del Destino
From: Bonnie Bonis <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Bonnie Bonis <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 27 Jul 2017 04:29:07 -0400
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La Forza del Destino, Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, 23 July 2017

Don Alvaro …………………………………………………………………. Jonas Kaufmann 
Donna Leonora …………………………………………………………… Anja Harteros 
Don Carlo di Vargas ……………………….…………………….…… Simone Piazzola 
Il Marchese di Calatrava / Padre Guardiano ……..…….. Vitalij Kowaljow 
Preziosilla ……………………….………………..………………………… Nadia Krasteva 
Fra Melitone ……………………….……………………………….……… Ambrogio Maestri 
Curra ……………………….……………………………………………….… Heike Grφtzinger 
Un alcade ……………………….……………………………………..…… Christian Rieger 
Mastro Trabuco ……………………….…………………………….…… Matthew Grills 
Un chirurgo ……………………….…………………………………..…… Igor Tsarkov

cond. ……………………….…………………………………………….…… Asher Fisch
dir. ……………………….………………………………………………..…… Martin Kušej 

Bayerisches Staatsorchester
Chor und Extrachor der Bayerischen Staatsoper


La Forza del Destino has never been one of my favourite operas, but the 
performance last Sunday at the Munich Nationaltheater kept my attention 
gripped throughout, in spite of the ugly, modernised production, which I 
was already familiar with from having watched most of it on YouTube 
(something I don’t do very often) the season when Kaufmann and Harteros 
first appeared in it and I didn’t manage to get a ticket. The updating in 
itself I can overlook—although having read a couple years ago the original 
1835 play by Αngel de Saavedra Duque de Rivas, “Don Αlvaro o la fuerza de
del sino”, I had all the more reason to have wished for a traditional mise-en
en-scθne. However, what really irks me are incoherencies between what is sh
shown on stage and the sense of what is being sung.

The worst example of this was Don Carlo’s monologue “Morir! Tremenda 
cosa!” in the third act. After the duet between the two men--during which 
Kaufmann as the supposedly dying Alvaro looked to be suffering so 
realistically that I wondered how he could still sing--, Alvaro was left lying 
unconscious on the table, with no one attending to his wounds, while Carlo 
fished out the sealed documents, found the portrait in Alvaro’s pocket, and 
expressed all the waverings of his conscience. All the time I was wond
wondering, “When are they going to treat him?” “How are they going to save
save him?” Only at the very end did a group of men rush in to lift up Alvaro and 
and carry him out, then immediately was heard “Lieta novella, θ salvo!”, whic
which in the surtitles was inexactly rendered as “We’ll save him!” That to me w
me was totally unsatisfactory. Those few seconds were insufficient to conc
conclude that a dying man would definitely be saved and thus give cause for 
for so much malignant joy and relief from Don Carlo.

Another gross incoherency which distracted me from the action was the en
end of the scene climaxing in the final duel between Don Carlo and Don Al
Alvaro. After resisting for so long, it’s supposed to be the slap from Carlo th
that precipitates Alvaro into the fight. But here there was no slap. The two me
men were standing at opposite ends of the table. I couldn’t figure out what se
set Alvaro off. Maybe I missed something …

In spite of these and other defects in the staging, the musical performance 
overall and the fine acting of the two protagonists made this a memorable 
execution of Forza. I have to admit that Harteros was the real star of the 
show. Her solo arias were exquisitely sung, in true Verdi style to my 
understanding having been brought up on Leontyne Price. The details of her
her acting made her Leonora very believable, such as in the very first sce
scene which opened on the Calatrava family sitting at the supper table and Leo
Leonora obviously anxious and nervous, knowing that Alvaro was supposed to 
to show up and contemplating her imminent flight.
Of course, the production did not help her, either. At the end of “Pace, pa
pace, mio Dio!”, when she exclaimed “Ma chi giunge?”, I couldn’t see an
anyone arriving or any indication that someone was arriving. Only some mo
moments later, both Alvaro and Carlo, the latter already mortally wounded, en
entered, clambering over the mass of large, piled-up white crosses that so
somehow represented the hermitage.

Kaufmann sounded great, but apart from “La vita θ inferno all'infelice”, 
Alvaro’s big scenes are all duets with Don Carlo, and here the barytone was no
not well-matched. Simone Piazzola was an uncharismatic figure, his voice an
and vocal portrayal uninteresting, lacking punch. It’s not that he sang ba
badly, it’s just that his contribution was unexciting, rendering the duets so
sort of lopsided and detracting from the overall effect of Kaufmann’s su
superb performance.

In contrast, the secondary characters were all splendidly sung, making the 
tavern scene and the various crowd scenes with soldiers or monks less 
tedious than I normally find them. In particular, mezzo Nadia Krasteva did 
a terrific job with Preziosilla, very lively and a joy to listen to. And Vitalij Kowaljow
Kowaljow and Ambrogio Maestri were excellent in their roles. Asher Fisch kept 
kept the whole thing moving at a good pace.

My final regret was just that Alvaro maintained such a distance from Leo
Leonora as she was dying, remaining to one side plunged in his grief and rem
remorse for most of her agony and only reaching to take her outstretched han
hand at the very end as she succumbed.

--
Bonnie Bonis
Florence, Italy

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