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Giuseppe Verdi  

La forza del destino

Opera 1862.

Opera in 4 acts. After the play Don Alvaro, o La Fuerza del sino by Angel de Saavedra, Duke of Rivas, and Schiller's drama Wallensteins Lager.

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La forza del destino (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, Duke of Rivas, with a scene adapted from Friedrich Schiller's Wallensteins Lager. It was first performed in the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre of St. Petersburg, Russia, on 10 November 1862.


Performance history

Cover of first bilingual edition of the libretto of La forza del destino, St. Petersburg 1862

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 of the opera

A critical edition[1] of all versions of the opera (including material from the original 1861 score which was never performed as written) has been prepared by musicologist Philip Gossett of the University of Chicago.[2] The critical edition of the 1869 version was performed by the San Francisco Opera in November 2005 while the Caramoor International Music Festival gave a concert performance of the 1862 version plus never-performed vocal pieces from the 1861 version at the July 2008 festival.[3] Gossett's essay on differences between the versions is included on Caramoor's website.[4]

La forza del destino is frequently performed and there have been a number of recordings.


Role Voice type Premiere cast
10 November 1862[5]
(Conductor: -)
Revised version
premiere cast
27 February 1869[5]
(Conductor: -)
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 gypsy mezzo-soprano Constance Nantier-Didier 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 Marcello Junca
Fra Melitone, a Franciscan baritone Achille De Bassini Giacomo Rota
A surgeon bass Alessandro Polonini Vincenzo Paraboschi
Peasants, servants, pilgrims, soldiers and friars


Place: Spain and Italy
Time: around 1750[6]

Act 1

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, however, he is not very well thought of. He falls in love with Donna Leonora, the daughter of the Marquis of Calatrava, who, notwithstanding his love for his daughter, is determined that she shall marry only a man of the highest origin. Leonora, knowing her father’s aversion to and deeply in love with Alvaro, determines to give up her home and country in order to elope with him, aided by her confidante, Curra.(Me pellegrina ed orfana - "Exiled and orphaned far from my childhood home").

Her father unexpectedly enters and discovers Alvaro; he threatens him with death, and, in order to remove any suspicion as to Leonora’s purity, Alvaro offers to surrender himself to the Marquis. He flings down his pistol which goes off and mortally wounds the Marquis who dies cursing his daughter.

Act 2

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

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 ... 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 into battle side by side.

Scene 2: The officers' quarters

In one of these engagements Don Alvaro is, as he supposes, mortally wounded, and confides to Don Carlo’s care a valise containing a bundle of letters which he is 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.

Scene 3: A camp near the battleground

Alvaro, having recovered, 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

Scene 1: The monastery

Don Alvaro has entered the monastery at Hornachuelos, near which is Leonora’s cave, under the name of Father Raphael. Don Carlo arrives and forces him to fight (Le minacci, i fieri accenti - "May the winds carry off with them").

Scene 2: A desolate spot near Leonora's hermitage

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 runs offstage to see her brother, who, when she bends over him, stabs her to the heart. Leonora returns with Padre Guardiano; he and Alvaro pray to heaven as she dies.


1862 original version

Year Cast
(Leonora, Alvaro,
Carlo, Preziosilla,
Fra Melitone, Padre Guardiano)
Opera House and Orchestra
1981 Martina Arroyo,
Kenneth Collins,
Peter Glossop,
Janet Coster,
Derek Hammond-Stroud,
Don Garrard
John Matheson,
BBC Concert Orchestra and the BBC Singers
Live recording of a Promenade Concert, 8 August; broadcast by BBC Radio 3
Audio CD: Opera Rara,
Cat: ORCV 304

1869 revised version

Year Cast
(Leonora, Alvaro,
Carlo, Preziosilla,
Fra Melitone, Padre Guardiano)
Opera House and Orchestra
1954 Maria Callas,
Richard Tucker,
Carlo Tagliabue,
Elena Nicolai,
Renato Capecchi,
Nicola Rossi-Lemeni
Tulio Serafin,
Teatro alla Scala orchestra and chorus
Audio CD: Naxos Classical, EMI
Cat: 5 56323-2
1955 Renata Tebaldi,
Mario del Monaco,
Ettore Bastianini,
Giulietta Simionato
Fernando Corena,
Cesare Siepi
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli,
Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Audio CD: Decca Originals
Cat: 475 8681
1958 Renata Tebaldi,
Franco Corelli,
Ettore Bastianini,
Oralia Dominguez
Renato Capecchi,
Boris Christoff
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli,
Orchestra and chorus of the Teatro di San Carlo, Naples
Live recording of a performance on 15 March
Video DVD: Hardy Classic
Cat: HCA 6014
1964 Leontyne Price,
Richard Tucker,
Robert Merrill,
Shirley Verrett,
Ezio Flagello,
Giorgio Tozzi
Thomas Schippers,
RCA Italiana Opera orchestra and chorus
Audio CD: RCA Victor
Cat: GD 87971
1969 Martina Arroyo,
Carlo Bergonzi,
Piero Cappuccilli,
Bianca Maria Casoni,
Geraint Evans,
Ruggero Raimondi
Lamberto Gardelli,
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus
Audio CD:EMI
Cat: CMS 5 67124-2
1976 Leontyne Price,
Placido Domingo,
Sherrill Milnes,
Fiorenza Cossotto,
Gabriel Bacquier,
Bonaldo Giaiotti
James Levine,
London Symphony Orchestra and the John Alldis Choir
Audio CD:RCA Red Seal
Cat: 74321 39502 2
1985 Rosalind Plowright,
José Carreras,
Renato Bruson,
Agnes Baltsa,
Juan Pons,
Paata Burchuladze
Giuseppe Sinopoli,
Philharmonia Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus
Audio CD:Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 477 5621
1986 Mirella Freni,
Plácido Domingo,
Giorgio Zancanaro,
Dolora Zajick,
Sesto Bruscantini,
Paul Plishka
Riccardo Muti,
Teatro alla Scala orchestra and chorus
Audio CD: EMI Classics
Cat: CDS 7 47485-8

The so-called "curse"

Forza is an opera that many old school Italian singers felt was "cursed" and brought bad luck. [8]. The very superstitious Luciano Pavarotti avoided the part of Alvaro for this reason.

On March 4, 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 [9], 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." [10] A well-known Italian director from the 1950s-1980s who also provided sets and costumes to opera companies nationwide insisted that while he had the scenery and costumes for the opera, he would not touch them himself. "Oh, tu che in seno," the tenor's main aria from the opera, was being sung during a concert in Bergen County, NJ, a number of years ago. As the tenor finished the aria, the lights went out in the theater. The power failure was reportedly blamed on a problem in the cemetery across the street.


  1. ^ Patricia Brauner, "What is a Critical Edition? How Does it Happen?", University of Chicago website
  2. ^ Unk,"Settling The Score: An Interview With Philip Gossett", Opera Today, 8 October 2006
  3. ^ Details of Caramoor's July 2008 performances and background to them
  4. ^ Philip Gossett, " La forza del destino: Three States of One Opera"
  5. ^ a b List of singers taken from Budden, Julian, The Operas of Verdi, Vol 2, p. 427, London: Cassell, 1974
  6. ^ The synopsis is adapted from Leo Melitz, The Opera Goer's Complete Guide, 1921 version, and Charles Osborne, The Complete Operas of Verdi
  7. ^ a b Recordings on operadis-opera-discography
  8. ^ Tim Smith, "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), September 30, 2007: "Superstition comes easily to the colorful, slightly crazy world of the performing arts.....Opera houses seem just as susceptible to superstitious thinking"
  9. ^ Bing, Rudolf, 5000 Nights at the Opera. New York: Doubleday, 1972
  10. ^ Mike Mitchell, " 'Cursed' opera to be performed", The Beacon News (Aurora, IL), April 15, 2007


  • Gossett, Philip, Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian opera, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2006 ISBN 0226304845
  • Melitz, Leo, The Opera Goer's Complete Guide, 1921 version.
  • Osborne, Charles, The Complete Operas of Verdi, New York: Da Capo Press, 1969. ISBN 0-306-80072-1

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "La_forza_del_destino". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.

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