Parma’s production of Verdi’s epic opera is one of the weakest in its march through all the master’s operas. Forza is often criticized as the weakest of Verdi’s latter masterpieces because of its episodic nature, its length (when given uncut), and because of its “dry” patches. In my opinion, none of these criticisms apply when the work receives a first class mounting. Under this condition the opera has an almost Shakespearean sweep about it as the destiny of the title overwhelms the three principals. What’s needed are three singers of the first rank and a conductor of power and insight. None of these were found in the Teatro Regio’s staging.
Director Stefano Poda set the action in the mid 19th century. There’s not a piece of furniture in the whole show. Just a lot of slabs which change position as the opera progresses. There were also a lot of non-singing characters in strange poses who popped up here and there. This sort of staging is not the usual for the Parma house which typically stays close to the traditional. There’s nothing wrong with the staging that a first rate musical effort couldn’t overcome. But that effort was not forthcoming.
Greek soprano Dimitra Theodossiou was the doomed fulcrum of the action, Leonora. She has the right kind of voice for the part, one of Verdi’s most demanding and compelling vocal characters, but she did not offer the silken tones needed to realize this Leonora (there are two other Verdi Leonoras). Her best singing was in the last scene Pace,pace mio Dio, but even here competency rather than virtuosity was the most the listener got.
Venezuelan tenor Aquiles Machado was Alvaro, one of Verdi’s most demanding tenor roles. He was at a disadvantage from the start as he is a lyric tenor asked to sing a true spinto part. His tone wobbled under stress or when he went above the staff. Alvaro is a part he should eschew if he wants to keep his voice.
Vladimir Stoyanov has a bland voice that did not go wrong during his performance , but which was without character and therefore failed to realize Verdi’s revenge crazed baritone. Bass Roberto Scandiuzzi has a wooly voice and did little with Padre Guardiano another of Verdi’s mechanical priests. Thus little was made of the great duet in the second scene of Act 2 – the so called Convent Scene. It’s at a monastery not a convent.
There’s a problem with Forza when the best singing comes from Fra Melitone, portrayed here by Carlo Lepore. The veteran Neapolitan bass offered the best characterization of the production.
Conductor Gianluigi Gelmetti seemed to have his mind elsewhere. There was no color or dynamic shading to his reading of Verdi’s score. The alternating loud and soft chords of doom in the last scene all seem mezzo forte. His conducting was tepid as was the audience’s reaction to the entire production. This being Parma all concerned are lucky that there wasn’t a lot of booing. Unless you are buying the whole set of Verdi’s operas, I can see no reason to get this one as there are far better DVDs of Forza available.
LA FORZA DEL DESTINO
Il marchese di Calatrava – Ziyan Atfeh
Donna Leonora – Dimitra Theodossiou
Don Carlo di Vargas – Vladimir Stoyanov
Don Alvaro – Aquiles Machado
Preziosilla – Mariana Pentcheva
Padre Guardiano – Roberto Scandiuzzi
Fra Melitone – Carlo Lepore
Curra – Adriana Di Paola
Un alcalde – Alessandro Bianchini
Mastro Trabuco – Myung Ho Kim
Un chirurgo – Gabriele Bolletta
Parma Teatro Regio Chorus and Orchestra
(chorus master: Martino Faggiani)
Gianluigi Gelmetti, conductor
Stefano Poda, stage director, set, costume and lighting designer, choreographer
Recorded live at the Teatro Regio di Parma, 2 and 5 February 2011