lunes, 30 de diciembre de 2013

Verdi’s “ La Forza Del Destino” at the Staatsoper Munich: Maledizione, Maledizione - Rataplan pimm pumm pumm

Photo: Bayerische Staatsoper

Suzanne Daumann

I’m not a Verdi aficionada and I’m afraid I never will be, but still I got reminded by an elegant lady behind me that standing ovations are not done in Munich. A contradiction? Not really. La Forza Del Destino has sublime musical moments, but then there are moments of intense boredom or something bordering on vulgarity, as in the chorus scenes with the soldiers. Why the almighty stage director didn’t cut one of those is beyond me. The whole dramaturgy of this opera is rather incoherent. Scenes intended to bring comic relief only interrupt the narration instead of adding anything worthwhile. Much has been said about the improbable story: Don Alvaro accidentally kills the father of his beloved Leonora.  Dying, the father curses the two of them. Next thing we know, Don Carlo, her brother, who was a child when it happened, is in a tavern, grown up now and disguised as a student. Eleonora happens to be in the same tavern, and finds out from the conversations that Alvaro is still alive and has gone to America and that her brother is out for his blood. So she decides to seek sanctuary in a monastery. Some years later, Alvaro and Don Carlo have become soldiers, under false names, in the same regiment in the same war. Alvaro saves Carlo’s life and they swear eternal friendship. When Alvaro is wounded, Carlo happens upon his sister’s portrait among his things, and understands that is friend is really the man he wants to kill. When Alvaro is healed, Carlo defies him in a duel, but their comrades separate them. Alvaro decides to become a monk. Carlo finds him at the monastery, which is none other than the one where Leonora is now living. Carlo taunts Alvaro into a fight and Alvaro wounds him deadly. Sure enough, on his search for help, Carlo happens upon Leonora. She wants to help the dying man, he kills her, and Alvaro is left alone. At least, this kind of story allows the stage director to take liberties with historical detail. Martin Kušej’s direction makes sense in this way. The inner world and life of the characters become clearly comprehensible. Martin Zehetgruber’s sets however are as inconsistent as the whole opera. Act I takes place in a simple family  dining room  It is in this room that everything is set in motion: the accident, the death, the curse – but isn’t it rather Leonora herself who hesitated too long, torn between the love of her father and the love of her man? Her surrendering herself to God, represented by the Padre Guardiano, who is interpreted here by the same singer, seems to suggest that she has never really overcome some fear of life and the world.  The family dinner table, which appears throughout the opera in every set, might likewise be read as a symbol of this being a family drama. It certainly helps to link the different scenes in the spectator’s mind, without bothering too much about the logic of the libretto. This also works with Heidi Hack’s costumes: His jeans, belt buckle and leather jacket designate Alvaro as some kind of outlaw. Don Carlo di Vargas appears in the first scene as a boy, clad in a particularly ugly green sweater, so that we recognize him easily when he appears, in the next scene, as a grown man in a similar ugly green sweater. Leonora likewise wears the same demure virgin dress throughout the opera that designates her as “the victim”. When in the tavern scene she recognizes her brother and disguises as a man, she puts on a hat and that’s that. In this scene, there is a rather remarkable change in the music, from boisterous to deeply religious and back. Alas, Martin Kušej chose to illustrate this with one of his milling masses, which turn the attention away from the music. In the next scene, on the contrary, when Leonora knocks on the monastery door and asks for sanctuary in the hermit’s cave, the setting is as simple and sober as can be, the familiar table is standing in front of a wooden sliding door adorned with a crucifix. Now this scene struck me as musically not very interesting and a bit of optical pep might have alleged the boredom... And was it really necessary to use the all-too-familiar images of the recent Iraq war to say that war is horrible? That’s just like having naked women all over the stage to remind us that “Don Giovanni” is about sex. The public isn’t that stupid, surely?! And is it really necessary for Leonora to walk out of her coffin and heavenward, by some mysterious device overcoming the laws of gravity and taking away all attention from Alvaro’s moving aria?Doubts and questions and all in all an underwhelming evening this might have been, were it not for the glorious glorious glorious singers. Anja Harteros, soprano, was Leonora, and she was simply beyond belief and beyond praise. Such a honeysweet warm voice, sweet abandon and grief and pain brought to life so perfectly, how can it be? Beyond belief and praise also Jonas Kaufmann, her Alvaro. He incarnated this tragic character with his usual abandon, heldentenor voice ringing warm and clear, moving pianissimos unfolding sweetly... and in the beautiful duet in Act III his voice blended with Ludovic Tézier’s warm baritone in an unforgettable way.  Tézier  was the revenge-seeking relentless Don Carlo. Don Carlo is torn between the wish to make up with Alvaro, to keep his vow of friendship, and the desire to avenge the family honour. He is the real protagonist of the story, actively pursuing the other two. He could give up the pursuit and go back to his life, but the curse of the father keeps him going. Ludovic Tézier sang the part most convincingly, with his strong stage presence and melodious intensity.  Vitalij Kowaljow, bass, sang both the parts of the Marchese di Calatrava and Padre Guardian, with perfect paternal tenderness, a Sarastro-like character, the scenes of Leonora asking for sanctuary among the monks bearing a close resemblance to the Magic Flute anyway. Asher Fisch conducted the excellent Bayerische Staatsorchester with delicacy in the aria parts, leaving me to wonder, however,  if it would have been possible to de-vulgarize a bit the chorus parts... And yes, standing ovations would have been in order for the singers, had they only been allowed in Munich... 

1 comentario:

  1. If you dislike Verdi you souldnt go before write such a lot of nonsence and stupid thinks about a real great work which Forza undoubtedly is.Sorry