In July, I was on Paris for work. It was a last minute thing and I checked the opera schedules desperately knowing that it's the holiday season and my chances are very low. However, I was lucky that both Opera Bastille and Opera Garnier were continuing their programme. Luckily, I catched the last performance of 'La Forza del Destino' on Opera Bastille.
Verdi's 'La Forza del Destino' was not popular enough comparing with other works of Verdi. I strongly recommend this piece for the 19th century opera lovers. You can find the sadness of 'La Traviata' in the clarinet solos, the taste of 'La Boheme' in the reality of people suffering in the streets and the politics of 'Tosca'. Elena Stikhina (soprano), Varduhi Abrahamyan (mezzo), Brian Jagde (tenor), Zeljiko Lucic (baritone), Rafal Siwek (bass) and Gabriele Viviani (baritone) was wonderful!
Orchestra under the baton of Nicola Luisatti was amazing, The Sinfonia melted me in my seat with tender clarinet solos that you realize you've been crying. You can feel the wind of destiny around you, than you face the ugly truth with the violins.
The original production belongs to Jean-Claude Auvray, and the revival made by Stephen Taylor. The staging is very minimal but effective. The opening is a beutiful setting of the house; the lighting, the paintings behind imade the setting traditional but modern at the same time. You can see that there's a Jesus painting at the wall, this detail is convinced me to Leonara's retrieve because now there's a background to her religious upbringing. When her father accidently killed by her lover, the wall of the house dropped to the floor, her house falled apart at the very moment.
When we see Leornara going to the Monk to beg for acceptance, there's nothing on the stage except a big Christ sculpture dangle from above and a white background behind lighted blue and red in turn. While her love aria was extraordinary, the Monk and his assistance's dialogues manage to make the audience laugh with jokes from 19th century. I am very happy to see that successful productions still achieve to make people laugh with very old comedy techniques (misunderstandings and so on) that we no longer find funny. But with a good staging and acting, Opera Bastille were sincerely funny; congratulations to Rafal Siwek and Gabriele Viviani.
The second act, begins with Don Alvaro. We see him in the war field. Behind him, there are guys gambling. They are actually in different places, staging emphasizes that with a small background of moon and clouds behind Don Alvaro that follows him while he's walking. I'm not sure if that really made the trick though. The worst part of this performance was watching Alvaro and Vargas fighting with the gamblers; it was the most unconvinging fight of all time for me :)
The parts that we see people suffering from war was really made me think that why this piece is so underrated. You can nearly call it a verismo piece; it showed the people supporting becoming the real victim of war. Behind the cripples and beggars, there was a banner that has VIVE LA GUERRA that the word GUERRA crossed and replaced with V.E.R.D.I. This is a wonderful reference that makes me excited immediately. VIVA VERDI was a famous acronym for Viva Vittorio Emanuele Red’Italia (Long live Victor Emanuel, King of Italy). Verdi became a patriotism symbol with Nabucco's 'Va, Pensiero'. This hebrew slave aria was about longing for independence and Italians identify themselves with it so much, at the premiere the applause didn't stop, and they had to repeat the aria although it was forbidden. Today, this aria is repeated in every Nabucco performance as a tradition.
Later, you see the crew singing for war celebrating end of the war. You see jubilees, people passing by, beggars and soldiers and so on. There are a lot of thing going on but it is so wonderfully coreographed that you don't miss anything, you don't confuse where to look (it happens a lot). Than comes the most expected aria of the mezzo: 'rataplan, rataplan.' Until this point, I thought mezzo sang out of her range in the first act and her volume was not adequate but this aria was wonderful. It was the peak of the performance both in staging and singing.
The third act has its Rossini moments :) Fra Melitone's lack of believe in the beggars were the funniest moments of the opera. During this act, Christ is not at the back facing towards at at the floor. Leonara spent 5 years in retreive and the moments later she recognizes Don Alvar, she found out the he murdered her brother. Before she had the time to digest this news, she's killed by her brother.
Overall, we left the auditorium with a great satisfaction of seeing this wonderful performance in mid-summer.
Highlights of the piece: