Vocal Allure And Car Crash Couture: La Forza Del Destino At Royal Opera House

La forza del destino, Royal Opera House ★★★★☆

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Vocal Allure And Car Crash Couture: La Forza Del Destino At Royal Opera House La forza del destino, Royal Opera House 4
(c) ROH 2019 photograph by Bill Cooper

Almost ten years after writing La Traviata — the most performed opera in the world — Verdi wrote La Forza Del Destino. A new production at the Royal Opera House delivers three hours of forbidden love, vengeance, war-battered decadence, and the tragic accident that sets it all in motion.

Opera megastars Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann play the cursed lovers, Leonora and Alvaro, pursued relentlessly by Ludovic Tezier as Leonora’s avenging brother, Don Carlo.

Ever the swoon-inducing romantic hero, Kaufmann arrives by leaping through an open window to declare his love, deliciously ruffled and smouldering with desire. He could sing an anthology of Trump tweets and the world would sigh with delight, but there’s not a great deal for him to do here other than look and sound beautiful and earn his pay cheque — which he does with his customary prowess and charm.  

(c) ROH 2019 photograph by Bill Cooper

Netrebko, in her debut as Leonora, is glorious in acts one and two. She skips the more agile embellishments and goes straight for the top notes with rich, mesmerising conviction, and when it’s this good, who can criticise? She seems to tire a little in the final act, and the darkness in her voice here inhibits her emotional range, but overall it’s a first class premiere.

The undoubted scene-stealer is the magnificent baritone Tezier, who is enigmatic, virile and vigorous throughout. It’s such a shame that Don Carlo’s final moment of triumph is hidden behind closed doors, but his venal, vengeful presence lingers in the memory.  

There are more star turns to be savoured, particularly from Ferruccio Furlanetto and the wonderful Alessandro Corbelli, but Veronica Simeoni’s erratic delivery of fortune teller Preziosilla distracts rather than adds to the narrative.

(c) ROH 2019 photograph by Bill Cooper

The vocal quality of the principals and superb chorus make for a top drawer evening, but the staging and styling is bizarre and confused at best. Someone clearly got overexcited in the costume cupboard, and the choreography borrows clumsily from every era, as we watch a visual car crash of gauche prostitutes in sequin party frocks, 1940s day dresses, Busby Berkeley chorus girls, Ann Summers negligees, Victorian brothel madams, Charlie Chaplin drummers, fetish gear, rustic rags, and an array of top hats, fedoras and flatcaps, vogueing, hip-hopping and jazz-handing all over the shop. Verdi loves a good party scene, but any deeper meaning or light relief is bludgeoned by this frenzied mess.

Ultimately, La Forza is a tortured, earthy, exquisite ride of Godfather proportions, well worth a ticket for the assembly of fabulous vocal talent. There are just moments when it’s infinitely preferable to listen, rather than watch…

La Forza Del Destino, Royal Opera House, Bow Street, WC2E 9DD. Tickets £24-£285, until 22 April 2019. La Forza Del Destino will be shown in UK cinemas on Tuesday 2 April 2019 with an encore screening on Sunday 7 April 2019. The production will be broadcast to cinemas around the world.

Last Updated 22 March 2019