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.
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 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. 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. Gossett's essay on differences between the versions is included on Caramoor's website.
La forza del destino is frequently performed and there have been a number of recordings.
10 November 1862
27 February 1869
|The Marquis of Calatrava
|Leonora, his daughter
|Don Carlo di Vargas, his son
|Don Alvaro, Leonora's suitor
|Curra, Leonora's maid
|Preziosilla, a young gypsy
|Maestro Trabuco, a muleteer and peddler
|Padre Guardiano, a Franciscan
|Fra Melitone, a Franciscan
||Achille De Bassini
|Peasants, servants, pilgrims, soldiers and friars
- Place: Spain and Italy
- Time: around 1750
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.
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.
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").
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
Fra Melitone, Padre Guardiano)
Opera House and Orchestra
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
Fra Melitone, Padre Guardiano)
Opera House and Orchestra
Teatro alla Scala orchestra and chorus
|Audio CD: Naxos Classical, EMI
Cat: 5 56323-2
Mario del Monaco,
Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
|Audio CD: Decca Originals
Cat: 475 8681
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
RCA Italiana Opera orchestra and chorus
|Audio CD: RCA Victor
Cat: GD 87971
Bianca Maria Casoni,
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus
Cat: CMS 5 67124-2
London Symphony Orchestra and the John Alldis Choir
|Audio CD:RCA Red Seal
Cat: 74321 39502 2
Philharmonia Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus
|Audio CD:Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 477 5621
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. . 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 , 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."  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.
- ^ Patricia Brauner, "What is a Critical Edition? How Does it Happen?", University of Chicago website
- ^ Unk,"Settling The Score: An Interview With Philip Gossett", Opera Today, 8 October 2006
- ^ Details of Caramoor's July 2008 performances and background to them
- ^ Philip Gossett, " La forza del destino: Three States of One Opera"
- ^ a b List of singers taken from Budden, Julian, The Operas of Verdi, Vol 2, p. 427, London: Cassell, 1974
- ^ The synopsis is adapted from Leo Melitz, The Opera Goer's Complete Guide, 1921 version, and Charles Osborne, The Complete Operas of Verdi
- ^ a b Recordings on operadis-opera-discography
- ^ 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"
- ^ Bing, Rudolf, 5000 Nights at the Opera. New York: Doubleday, 1972
- ^ 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