Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Classics: Verdi's "Forza" demonstrates from start to finish what only opera can do


VERDI:La Forza del destino: Act III, Recitative and aria, Alvaro, "La vita è inferno all'infelice" . . . "O tu che in seno agli angeli"

José Carreras sings Don Alvaro's Act III monologue at La Scala in 1978.
Life is a hell to the unfortunate. In vain
do I long for death. Seville! Leonora!
Oh, memories! Oh, night
that robbed me of all joy!
I shall be unhappy forever - so it is written.
My father wished to shatter the foreign yoke
on his native land, and by uniting himself
with the last of the Incas, thought to assume
the crown. The attempt was in vain!
I was born in prison, educated
in the desert; I live only because my royal birth
is known to none! My parents
dreamed of a throne; the axe awakened them!
Oh, when will my misfortunes end?

Oh, you who have ascended, forever pure,
to the bosom of the angels,
lovely and untouched
by mortal sorrow,
do not forget
to look down on me, unhappy wretch,
who, nameless and exiled,
the prey of fate,
longingly seeks to encounter death,
unfortunate that I am!
Leonora, help me,
have pity on my anguish.
Help me, have pity on me!

by Ken

We spent some time recently with A Masked Ball, which I pointed out is, for all its formal adventurousness and variety, the tidies of Verdi's middle-period operas, being the only one regularly perfomed without substantial musical alterations. At the other extreme lies La Forza del destino (The Force of Destiny), a sprawling epic that tends to be sliced and diced, sometimes simply because of length, sometimes because of being, well, just too much, but not often because any of its music is truly dispensable, on grounds of either musical quality or dramatic force.

The one exception, for me, is the middle of the three scenes between the archfoes Don Alvaro and Don Carlo -- a good idea for a scene, and good music, but not of the kind of memorability that pervades the rest of the score. Verdi himself set the standard here with the first and the third of the Alvaro-Carlo scenes. (We heard a great deal of the first, "Solenne in quest'ora, in last night's preview, and a chunk of the last, "Invano, Alvaro," in Friday night's -- and we'll hear the whole thing today.)

From Alvaro's monologue I just want to highlight, for the moment, this portion of the recitative.

La Forza del destino, Act III: Don Alvaro, "Siviglia! Leonora! O rimembranza!"
Seville! Leonora! O remembrance!
O night that ravished me of all good fortune.
I will be unhappy eternally. It's written.
Giuseppe di Stefano (t), Don Alvaro; Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Fernando Previtali, cond. RCA/Decca, recorded 1958

We've talked all around that dreadful night. Now I think we better go back and find out what happened.



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At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Lucy The Wonder Dog said...

Wow, José Carreras has a beautiful voice. I've never been a big fan of opera, but I think maybe it's because I never heard Verdi. Thanks!

At 9:36 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Yes, Lucy, once upon a time had a gorgeous voice. Never as secure as one would have liked on top, but a wonderful instrument.



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