La forza del destino
La forza del destino (The Force of Destiny) is an Italian opera by Giuseppe Verdi. The libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on a Spanish drama, Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino (1835), by Ángel de Saavedra, Duke of Rivas, with a scene adapted from Friedrich Schiller's Wallensteins Lager. It was first performed in the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre of St. Petersburg, Russia, on 22 November [O.S. 10 November] 1862.
La forza del destino is still frequently performed, and there have been a number of complete recordings. In addition, the overture (to the revised version of the opera) is part of the standard repertoire for symphony orchestras, often played as the opening piece at concerts.
After some further revisions, performances in Rome in 1863 (as Don Alvaro) and Madrid (with the Duke of Rivas, the play's author, in attendance) followed shortly afterwards, and the opera subsequently travelled to New York and Vienna (1865), Buenos Aires (1866) and London (1867).
Verdi made other revisions, with additions by Antonio Ghislanzoni. This version, which premiered at La Scala, Milan, on 27 February 1869, has become the "standard" performance version. The most important changes were a new overture (replacing a brief prelude); the addition of a final scene to Act 3, following the duel between Carlo and Alvaro; and a new ending, in which Alvaro remains alive, instead of throwing himself off a cliff to his death.
Recent critical editions of the opera
A critical edition of all versions of the opera (including material from the original 1861 score which had never been performed as written) has been prepared by musicologist Philip Gossett of the University of Chicago. The critical edition of the 1869 version was performed by the San Francisco Opera in November 2005 while the Caramoor International Music Festival gave a concert performance of the 1862 version plus never-performed vocal pieces from the 1861 version at the July 2008 festival. Gossett's essay on differences between the versions is included on Caramoor's website.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast
22 November [O.S. 10 November] 1862
(Conductor: Edoardo Bauer (Baveri)
27 February 1869
(Conductor: Eugenio Terziani)
|The Marquis of Calatrava||bass||Meo||Giuseppe Vecchi|
|Leonora, his daughter||soprano||Caroline Barbot||Teresa Stolz|
|Don Carlo di Vargas, his son||baritone||Francesco Graziani||Luigi Colonnese|
|Don Alvaro, Leonora's suitor||tenor||Enrico Tamberlik||Mario Tiberini|
|Curra, Leonora's maid||mezzo-soprano||Lagramante||Ester Neri|
|Preziosilla, a young gipsy||mezzo-soprano||Constance Nantier-Didier||Ida Benzi|
|Mayor||bass||Ignazio Marini||Luigi Alessandrini|
|Maestro Trabuco, a muleteer and peddler||tenor||Geremia Bettini||Antonio Tasso|
|Padre Guardiano, a Franciscan||bass||Gian Francesco Angelini||Marcello Junca|
|Fra Melitone, a Franciscan||baritone||Achille De Bassini||Giacomo Rota|
|A surgeon||bass||Alessandro Polonini||Vincenzo Paraboschi|
|Peasants, servants, pilgrims, soldiers, vivandières and friars|
2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (2nd doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons; 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, cimbasso; timpani, percussion (side drum, bass drum); 2 harps; strings. Onstage: organ, 6 trumpets, 4 side drums.
- Place: Spain and Italy
- Time: around 1750
The mansion of Leonora's family, in Seville
Don Alvaro is a young nobleman from South America (presumably Peru) who is part Indian and who has settled in Seville where he is not very well thought of. He falls in love with Donna Leonora, the daughter of the Marquis of Calatrava, who is determined that she shall marry only a man of the highest origin. Despite knowing her father’s aversion to Alvaro, Leonora is deeply in love with him, and determines to give up her home and country in order to elope with him. In this endeavor, she is aided by her confidante, Curra. (Me pellegrina ed orfana – "Exiled and orphaned far from my childhood home").
However, the Marquis unexpectedly enters and discovers Leonora and Alvaro together. He threatens Alvaro with death, but, in order to remove any suspicion as to Leonora’s purity, Alvaro surrenders himself. He flings down his pistol, which goes off and mortally wounds the Marquis who dies cursing his daughter.
Scene 1: An inn in the village of Hornachuelos
The Alcalde, several peasant muleteers, and Don Carlo of Vargas, the brother of Donna Leonora, are gathered in the kitchen of an inn. Don Carlo, disguised as a student of Salamanca, under the fictitious name of Pereda, is seeking revenge against Alvaro and Leonora (Son Pereda son ricco d'onore – "I am Pereda, of honorable descent"). During the supper, Preziosilla, a young gypsy, tells the young men’s fortunes and exhorts them to enlist in the war (Al suon del tamburo – "When side drums rattle") for Italy’s freedom, which all agree to do. Having become separated from Alvaro, Leonora arrives in male attire, but slips away without being discovered by Carlo.
Scene 2: A monastery nearby
Leonora takes refuge in the monastery (Sono giunta! ... Madre, pietosa Vergine – "I've got here! Oh, thank God!") where she tells the abbot, Padre Guardiano, her true name and that she intends to spend the remainder of her life in a hermitage. The abbot recounts the trials she will have to undergo. Leonora, Padre Guardiano, Fra Melitone, and the other monks join in prayer.
Scene 1: A forest near Velletri, in Italy
Meanwhile Don Alvaro has joined the Spanish army under the name of Don Federico Herreros (La vita è inferno ... O tu che in seno agli angeli – "Life is a hell to those who are unhappy....Oh, my beloved, risen among the angels"). One night he saves the life of Don Carlo who is serving in the same army under the name of Don Felix Bornos. They become close friends and go into battle side by side.
Scene 2: The officers' quarters
In one of these engagements Don Alvaro is, as he supposes, mortally wounded, and entrusts to Don Carlo’s care a valise containing a bundle of letters which he is to destroy as soon as Don Alvaro dies. (Solenne in quest'ora – "Swear to me, in this solemn hour"). Don Carlo has sworn not to look at the contents of the letters; but he becomes suspicious of his friend. (Morir! Tremenda cosa! ... Urna fatale del mio destino – "To die! What an awesome thought...Get away, fatal lot sent to my Destiny!"). He opens the valise, finds his sister’s picture, and realizes Alvaro's true identity. At that moment a surgeon brings word that Don Alvaro may recover. Don Carlo is overjoyed at the idea of avenging his father’s death.
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Scene 3: A camp near the battleground
Alvaro, having recovered, is confronted by Carlo. They begin to duel but are pulled away from each other by the soldiers. As they restrain Carlo, the anguished Don Alvaro vows to enter a monastery.
The soldiers gather. Trabucco, the peddler, tries to sell them his wares; Fra Melitone chastises them for their godless ways; and Preziosilla leads them in a chorus in praise of the military life (Rataplan, rataplan, della gloria – "Rum-tum-tum on the drum is the music that makes a soldier's martial spirit rise").
Scene 1: The monastery
Don Alvaro has entered the monastery at Hornachuelos, near which is Leonora’s cave, under the name of Father Raphael. Don Carlo arrives and forces him to fight (Le minacce, i fieri accenti – "May the winds carry off with them").
Scene 2: A desolate spot near Leonora's hermitage
Leonora prays that she may find peace in death (Pace, pace mio Dio! – "Peace, O mighty Father, give me peace!"). Alvaro runs in, calling for help, having mortally wounded Carlo in their duel. The two lovers recognize each other. Leonora runs offstage to see her brother, who, when she bends over him, stabs her in the heart. Leonora returns with Padre Guardiano; he and Alvaro pray to heaven as she dies.
- [Original version: Overcome by the guilt at having killed or caused the death of all the Calatravas, Alvaro jumps to his death into the nearby ravine over the protests of Father Guardiano].
1862 original version
Fra Melitone, Padre Guardiano)
Opera House and Orchestra
BBC Concert Orchestra and the BBC Singers
Live recording of a Promenade Concert, 8 August; broadcast by BBC Radio 3
|Audio CD: Opera Rara,
Cat: ORCV 304
1869 revised version
The so-called "curse"
On 4 March 1960 at the Metropolitan Opera, in a performance of La Forza del Destino with Renata Tebaldi and tenor Richard Tucker, the American baritone Leonard Warren was about to launch into the vigorous cabaletta to Don Carlo's Act 3 aria, which begins "Morir, tremenda cosa" ("to die, a momentous thing"). While Rudolf Bing reports that Warren simply went silent and fell face-forward to the floor, others state that he started coughing and gasping, and that he cried out "Help me, help me!" before falling to the floor, remaining motionless. A few minutes later he was pronounced dead of a massive cerebral hemorrhage, and the rest of the performance was canceled. Warren was only 48.
The "Curse" prompted singers and others to do strange things to fend off possible bad luck. The great Italian tenor Franco Corelli was rumored to have held on to his crotch during some of his performances of the opera as "protection." Anthony Stivanello, a well-known Italian director from the 1950s–1980s who also provided sets and costumes to opera companies nationwide insisted that while he had the scenery and costumes for the opera, he would not touch them himself.
In other media
The musical score for the French films Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources uses the main theme for both. It was adapted by Jean-Claude Petit from the aria "Invano, Alvaro" in La forza del destino. The Korean film The Scarlet Letter opens with "Pace, Pace Mio Dio", introducing a film about intensely powerful obsession which brings its lovers to the brink of madness.
- Patricia Brauner, "What is a Critical Edition? How Does it Happen?", University of Chicago website
- Unk,"Settling The Score: An Interview With Philip Gossett", Opera Today, 8 October 2006
- Details of Caramoor's July 2008 performances and background to them
- Philip Gossett, " La forza del destino: Three States of One Opera"
- Budden, p. 427
- Mazza Schiantarelli, p. ??
- Source of cast for revised version on amadeusonline.net. Retrieved 3 July 2011
- David Kimbell, in Holden p. 1000
- Melitz and Osborne, Charles: sources of the synopsis
- Recordings on operadis-opera-discography
- Tim Smith, "Baltimore Opera tests superstition: Company to take on Verdi's 'La forza del destino,' despite its history of bad luck", The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, MD), 30 September 2007: "Superstition comes easily to the colorful, slightly crazy world of the performing arts.....Opera houses seem just as susceptible to superstitious thinking"
- Bing, p. ?
- Mike Mitchell, " 'Cursed' opera to be performed", The Beacon News (Aurora, IL), 15 April 2007
- Bing, Rudolf, 5000 Nights at the Opera. New York: Doubleday, 1972
- Budden, Julian, The Operas of Verdi, Volume 2: From ‘’Il Trovatore’’ to ‘’La Forza del destino’’. London: Cassell, 1984. ISBN 978-0-19-520068-3 (hardcover) ISBN 978-0-19-520450-6 (paperback).
- Gossett, Philip, Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2006 ISBN 0-226-30482-5
- Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
- Mazza Schiantarelli, Simona (2011). Un viaggio tra dominante e tonica negli anni del risorgimento. Tirano, Italy: Polaris.
- Melitz, Leo, The Opera Goer's Complete Guide, 1921 version.
- Osborne, Charles, The Complete Operas of Verdi, New York: Da Capo Press, 1969. ISBN 0-306-80072-1
- Phillips-Matz, Mary Jane, Verdi: A Biography, London & New York: Oxford University Press, 1993 ISBN 0-19-313204-4