La forza del destino

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La forza del destino
Opera by Giuseppe Verdi
Alexandre Charles Lecocq - Giuseppe Verdi - La forza del destino.jpg
c. 1870 poster by Charles Lecocq
Librettist Francesco Maria Piave
Language Italian
Based on Ángel de Saavedra's
Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino of 1835
Premiere 22 November 1862 (1862-11-22)
Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, Saint Petersburg

La forza del destino (Italian pronunciation: [la ˈfɔrtsa del desˈtiːno]; The Power of Fate,[1] often translated 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, 3rd Duke of Rivas, with a scene adapted from Friedrich Schiller's Wallensteins Lager. It was first performed in the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre of Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 22 November [O.S. 10 November] 1862.

La forza del destino is 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 orchestras, often played as the opening piece at concerts.

Performance history[edit]

First edition (1862) of the libretto of La forza del destino, Saint Petersburg, with bilingual Italian and Russian text.

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[edit]

Critical editions[2] of all versions of the opera (including material from the original 1861 score) have been prepared by musicologist Philip Gossett of the University of Chicago.[3]

In November 2005, the critical edition of the 1869 version was first performed by the San Francisco Opera whose program book included an essay by Gossett on the evolution of the various versions: 'La forza del destino': Three States of One Opera.[4] The Caramoor International Music Festival gave a concert performance of the critical edition of the 1862 version, plus never-performed vocal pieces from the 1861 version, in July 2008.


Role Voice type Premiere cast
22 November 1862
[O.S. 10 November][5]
St. Petersburg
Edoardo Bauer (Baveri)[6]
Revised version
Premiere cast
27 February 1869[5]
Eugenio Terziani[7]
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-Didiée 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 (it) 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.[8]


Place: Spain and Italy
Time: around 1750[9]


The music begins with the opera's "Fate" motif, an ominous three Es unison in the brass.

Act 1[edit]

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, but Calatrava 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 she 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, and, in order to remove any suspicion as to Leonora’s purity, Alvaro surrenders himself. As he flings down his pistol, it goes off, mortally wounding the Marquis who dies cursing his daughter.

Act 2[edit]

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.

Act 3[edit]

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 all'infelice ... 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 side by side into the Battle of Velletri, an historical event which occurred in 1744.

Scene 2: The officers' quarters

In one of these engagements Don Alvaro returns, believing himself to be mortally wounded. He entrusts to Don Carlo’s care a valise containing a bundle of letters which he orders his friend 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.

Opening of act 3, scene 3; Enrico Caruso and Giuseppe De Luca

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Scene 3: A camp near the battleground

Having recovered, Alvaro 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").

Act 4[edit]

Scene 1: The monastery

1860s postcard showing Act IV.

Under the name of Father Raphael, Don Alvaro has entered the monastery at Hornachuelos, near which is Leonora’s cave. 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

Enrico Caruso, Jose Mardones and Rosa Ponselle in a 1918 Metropolitan Opera performance.

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 seeks her brother and, as she bends over him, he 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, cursing humankind, over the protests of Father Guardiano].

"Cursed" opera[edit]

Forza is an opera that many old school Italian singers felt was "cursed" and brought bad luck.[10] The very superstitious Luciano Pavarotti avoided the part of Alvaro for this reason.[citation needed]

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,[11] 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."[12]

Other media[edit]

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.[citation needed]




  1. ^ Sadie 2006, p. 231
  2. ^ Patricia Brauner, "What is a Critical Edition? How Does it Happen?", University of Chicago website
  3. ^ "Settling The Score: An Interview With Philip Gossett", Opera Today, 8 October 2006
  4. ^ Gossett, Philip 2005, "La forza del destino: Three States of One Opera", San Francisco Opera program book, 2005/06 season, pp. x–xiii
  5. ^ a b Budden 1984, p. 427
  6. ^ Mazza Schiantarelli, p. ??
  7. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Source of cast for revised version". Almanacco Amadeus (Italian).
  8. ^ David Kimbell 2001, in Holden p. 1000
  9. ^ Melitz and Osborne, Charles: sources of the synopsis
  10. ^ Tim Smith 30 September 2007, "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): "Superstition comes easily to the colorful, slightly crazy world of the performing arts.....Opera houses seem just as susceptible to superstitious thinking"
  11. ^ Bing 1972, p. ?
  12. ^ Mike Mitchell, " 'Cursed' opera to be performed", The Beacon News (Aurora, IL), 15 April 2007

Cited sources

Other sources

External links[edit]