This is a 1998 performance from the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg of the original 1862 St Petersburg version of Verdi's La Forza del Destino
. While the world famous version premiered in Italy in 1867 is the superior work, few will want to miss the rare opportunity to see and hear such a well-staged version of Verdi's first thoughts. Here the earlier libretto by Francesco Maria Piave is restored, the original, considerably darker ending is intact and even the sets are constructed to the 1862 designs. There are other differences, though the story remains the familiar mixture of love, misunderstanding and war, the characters ranging from the nobility to monks, soldiers and gypsies, the tone spanning low comedy to high drama. The result is a lavish production, full of life and vitality, shot through with musical urgency and some tremendously powerful singing. Particularly striking is Gegam Grigorian, making a commanding Don Alvaro, whose role here is rather more expansive than in the later version. Galina Gorchakova reprises her Leonara from the 1997 CD recording of the work with passionate intensity, and conductor Valéry Gergiev keeps the epic scale tightly focused. The direction for video unobtrusively brings out the heart of the drama on stage.
On the DVD: The disc is presented at 16:9 and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. The result is a good but not exceptional picture with clear PCM stereo sound. Other than the booklet and the option to view with or without subtitles there are no special features. --Gary S. Dalkin