La forza del destino in Saarbrücken

La forza del destino is not as often performed as you would expect of a late Verdi opera and, given the strength of its musical content, the explanation must lie with its dramatic structure which is episodic and lacking coherence. In presenting it, attempts to fill in the gaps and render the disparate settings homogenous tend to falter. For his production in Saarbrücken, Lorenzo Fioroni offered a bolder solution. Eschewing a linear approach, he presented a set of tableaux in different locations and different time periods, each of them displaying gloomy features of the human condition: intolerance, conflict and violence; and religion as ritual without compassion. The plight of Leonora and the struggle between her lover Don Alvaro and her brother Don Carlo thus re-emerge in different contexts epitomising the “force of destiny” as a relentless pattern of social existence. 

It starts as a fairy-tale, with the stage being opened up as if a book. The first Act is set in 16th Century Spain, the characters portraying the initial conflicts from which all subsequent trauma stem in stiff, unwieldy costumes. Developments are set in motion by Verdi’s famous Prelude – astutely placed here rather than before the curtain rises. And the spectacle ends brilliantly as, at a near-contemporary funeral, Leonora pleads with those present for peace (Pace, Pace), but in vain as, one by one, they all leave her alone in the hall.

At the last performance in the run, Justus Thorau was in the pit. He paced the piece well, contrasting pathos with the hustle and bustle of relentless activity. As Leonora, Pauliina Linnosaari’s mature, expressive soprano met all the demands of Verdi’s famous arias, producing both penetrating high notes and darker tones from the lower register. The Alvaro, tenor Angelos Samartzis, was cheered by the exuberant audience, overlooking the unevenness of his performance, the vocal projection being at times strained. In contrast, Hansung Yoo, as Carlo maintained throughout a steady and warm, if not unduly exciting, output. The mellow bass of Hiroshi Matsui was perfectly suited for the Padre Guardino, but Steffan Röttig’s vocal resources were wearing dangerously thin, so that one missed the relish associated with Melitone’s character and music.

This performance was not one, however, to judge by reference to individual singers. It achieved its massive impact through theatrical mastery matching the musical idiom.