on 6 October 2013
This is a wonderful production of La Forza del Destino from the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on the 18th of June 1978, the year of the theatre’s bicentenary. It has an impressive cast, which live up to their reputation.
Montserrat Caballe sings Leonora with pleasing tone of voice. She sings mostly sotto vocce, but delivers her music with great accuracy and feeling, especially in acts II and IV. She is not the best actress I have ever seen but on the whole she is convincing and does have a natural Spanish complexion It is a pity that an otherwise great performance is somewhat spoiled by her complete lack of any movement on stage at the end of Act IV.
Jose Carreras, looks here younger than ever! Hew sings a very convincing Don Alvaro and acts throughout the Opera beautifully. He is probably the best member of the cast.
Piero Cappuccilli sings a very solid Don Carlo, probably the best I have heard on record. Nicolai Ghiaurov sings a very impressive Padre Guardiano and this is probably his best performance on record.
The rest of the cast are also very good without a weak link among them. Giuseppe Patane gives an accurate reading of the score but with some lack of imagination.
The sets are good, providing the atmosphere described by the composer, with no silly ideas of some modern directors who feel that they must make their mark by altering the essence of the story as much as they can. Some of the backdrops are somewhat weird but most are innocent and unobtrusive.
Of the existing DVDs of the opera, the only performance that could conceivably rival this one is the one with Tebaldi, Correlli, Bastianini and Christoff from the 1950s. Unfortunately, the sound is just about adequate, but the image is one of the poorest I have seen, making it very hard to follow. I someone will eventually restore that great performance to an acceptable visual level. The same is true of that performance of Otello from La Scala of the same period as this Forza, with Kleiber, Domingo, Freni and Cappuccilli which has a poor image as well.
on 6 July 2014
The stage design is rather poor, and sometimes swamps figures on the stage; and the sound and visual recording is obviously not as good as more recent recordings.
But this is more than compensated for by the incredible singing:: Carreras at his very best coupled with Montserrat Caballe and Cappuccilli:: three of the most phenomenal voices ever!
The minor characters Melitone and Preziozilla were very well performed and sung.
on 15 July 2012
For many years my only DVD of La Forza Del Destino was that of the Met's 1984 production under the baton of James Levine. Often regarded as a definitive recording the opera is magnificently staged and boasts a fine cast of singers although the best years of Leontyne Price were then behind her. Anxious for an alternative version I picked the 1978 version of the opera from Teatro alla Scala, under the baton of Giuseppe Patane which was a wise decision.
Only finally restored from the original video in 2011 this great production was allowed to languish in the obscurity of La Scala's vaults for far too long and it must be a profound hope that the DVD version will now be allowed to remain permanently in the catalogue. Not unexpectedly the transfer to DVD from the original video is not always perfect (a fact acknowledged in the booklet) for there are occasional problems with picture quality. Fortunately the sound quality is excellent. Comparisons often serve little purpose but the Met's staging is far superior to that of La Scala. This is a traditional production with appropriate costumes but some of the backdrops (although they complement the action) look amateurish and give the impression of having been conceived in a hurry. Others are seriously peculiar and on one occasion can be identified as something not unlike an Arthur Rackman fairyland.
The award of five stars is justified by the glorious singing. Reviewers have commented that it is now rare to find an Italian opera headed by a cast of Latins but such is the triumphant case here with the outstanding singing of the then young Jose Carreras as Don Alvaro, Piero Cappuccilli as Don Carlo and Montserrat Caballe as Leonora. From begining to end the production is full of wonderful things. The many high points include Leonora's "Madre. pietosa Vergine" and the tenor/baritone duets which are received with prolonged applause. This production predates the current obsession with opera theatre and many of the hand gestures are now dated but the three performers possess great stage presence. Among the other solo parts Nicolai Ghiaurov, although hampered by a silly wig, is impressive as Padre Guardiano; Maria Luisa Nave makes a spritely Preziosilla and Sesto Bruscantini is very good in the character role of the grumbling Fra Melitone. The chorus is also in good voice.
The highly professional staging of the Met's production still makes it my first choice but such is the standard of the signing at La Scala that many a Verdi aficionado will consider this version an essential purchase.
This is a two disc 4:3 La Scala 1978 recording of this work of decent quality considering its age. There's a very appreciative and enthusiastic audience with lots of clapping and cheering, which on two or three occasions even holds up the performance for a few minutes. It really is one of the saddest of Verdi's works with perhaps only Rigoletto being more tragic. It's also difficult not to get the impression that Verdi is 'having a go' at exposing the hypocrisy inherent within both class and religion. One could say it's a drama about how an accident can set off a train of events that brings misery into may lives and how such misery is not really helped by religion, which manages only to make things worse for all concerned, not least in its inability to assuage hatred.
Fortunately, all is not 'doom and gloom': welcome light relief is included in the shape of attractive 'show a leg' gypsy singer-dancer Preziosilla delightfully sung and performed by Maria Luisa Nave who, on a couple of occasions, is joined by a whole troupe of gypsy dancers. In fact, the crowd scenes in this performance are especially well staged along with a realistic attempt at period costuming.
We also have a real treat here in the shape of Jose Carreras in the lead male role of Don Alvaro, who loves Donna Leonora (Montserrat Caballe), the daughter of the Marchese di Colatrava played by Giovanni Foiani. Real problems begin when the Marchese is accidentally shot dead when Don Alavaro throws down his pistol in an act of submission and it accidentally fires, killing the Marchese and thus 'triggering off' a chain of tragic events illustrating the powerful force inherent in destiny. Worst of all, this catches Donna Leonora up in a tragic 'lover kills father' syndrome, which causes her to seek salvation by entering the religious life in a monastery. It's not entirely clear to me why she went in with monks and not nuns, but maybe it's because she desired to live in solitude for the rest of her days. Two monks are portrayed, Fra Melitone and Padre Guardiano both well played by Sasto Bruscantini and Nocolai Ghiaurov. Whereas Fra Melitone is a somehat comic character who doesn't seem to be coping very well with anything, Padre Guardiano comes across as a compassionate, understanding kind of person. As always, Verdi is a past master at dovetailing music and characters together in realistic and attention holding fashion. He never glorifies characters, preferring to portray them all in Cromwellian 'warts and all' fashion.
The character of Don Carlo di Vargas, Donna Leonora's brother, is well played by Piero Cappuccilli. .In the end, the unfortunate Don Alvaro is left all alone as a result of the force of destiny. Here we have a superb performance of Verdi's great work staged, conducted and performed to the highest possible standard. All right, it's not Blu-Ray; but some of the more recent performances and recordings can learn much from how well this was all staged and recorded back in 1978. For me, it's simply a wonderful, attention holding performance of one of Verdi's greatest works.
on 18 May 2014
This has long been my favourite performance of La Forza, preserved on a fine sounding Opera Magic's CD set.
It's wonderful to have this now on DVD, although there are issues with a production which has largely been set at night and occasionally disappears into incomprehensible blackness. The opera is set in Spain, for heaven's sake and a little sunshine would have been welcome. Dueling with swords in the middle of the night must have been fun, too.
One tiny treasurable feature is that in Act Four, Caballe, disguised as a male Hermit, has the benefit of two- inch heels. I guess that real Divas didn't do sandals and the heels helped her to die on her feet after her brother's fatal sword thrust.
Are there credible successors to the majority of these singers? One lives in hope, but it is fantastic to see what a former generation of real stars could produce.