The Christof Loy production of La Forza del Destino at Royal Opera House was the hottest ticket in town this season.
The house was indeed packed to the brim and with good reason – ROH’s music director, Antonio Pappano, has managed to pull off a formidable feat by uniting a number of operatic superstars: Anna Netrebko as Leonora, Jonas Kaufmann as her tragic lover Alvaro and Ludovic Tezier as Leonora’s brother, Carlo de Calatrava.
To add to the above, there were unforgettable performances by Alessandro Corbelli as the mischievous Melitone and Ferruccio Furlanetto as the dignified Father Superior.
Veronica Simeoni, cast as Preziosilla, the Roma fortune teller, though a talented singer, was critically diminished in stature by the force of nature that Netrebko is.
La Forza del Destino is a long and complex opera with numerous chorus scores, all masterfully performed and choreographed.
The usual combination of passion and high drama is countered by sardonic send-ups of the catholic clergy and a thinly-veiled indictment of war with its ravages on ordinary people.
The ultimate tragedy is preordained, seeded as it is in the destructive obsession with birthright and nobility.
Loy has managed to weave all this in effortlessly and masterfully, although the costumes and stage sets were occasionally awkward and the latter right down unimaginative.
The high point, as it should be, was the operatic performance, and the spontaneously rapturous applause in between arias (a no-no as opera etiquette goes) was a huge testimony to the superlative quality of both singers and orchestra.
Netrebco’s middle and low registers were rich, nuanced and portentous; the high registers technically superb and emotionally charged . She quite literally brought the audience to exultation with her Madre pietosa Vergine.
Then, there was the superb teaming of Netrebco, Kaufmann and French baritone Ludovic Tézier, and when the three of them took the stage together, there was palpable magic. The kind of magic that every opera lover hopes to capture every time….
The Netrebco/Kaufamann duets were as passionate and fatalistic as the narrative suggests it, whereas Tézier’s Urna fatale was compellingly intense.
“I like it very much,” Verdi wrote of “La Forza del Destino” , “I don’t know if the public will feel the same, but it is certainly something quite out of the ordinary.”
The ROH audience, on 2nd April 2019, and this editor in particular, felt this was opera at its very best and at its most poignant.