La Forza del Destino published 10 February 2018
by DAVID NICHOLSON at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff
WELSH National Opera’s spring season kicked off with a fine rendition of Verdi’s La forza del destino, despite some on-stage shenanigans raising inappropriate laughs from the first night audience.
Verdi has written one of the great operatic overtures and conductor Carlo Rizzi draws a magnificent performance from the orchestra.
The tragic events about to unfold are elegantly captured in an onscreen projection during the overture, which are dreamt of by the sleeping Leonora in an onstage bed. She is woken from her dream by a gun firing into a red blood mist.
Soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams as Donna Leonora was sublime in the role as her tragic destiny unfolds before us. Williams is a Cardiff favourite and her performance showed why.
Leonara is in love with Gwyn Hughes-Jones’ Don Alvaro, and as they prepare to elope her father interrupts the couple.
The tragic chain of events are put in motion as Don Alvaro’s gun fires as it drops to the floor, fatally hitting Miklos Sebestyen’s Il Marchese di Calatrav.
Leonara flees and is separated from her lover as the pair go on the run.
Hughes-Jones is a fine Alvaro and his scenes and duets with Leonora’s vengeful brother, Don Carlo, ably sung here by Luis Cansino, are gripping. Their beautiful duet ‘Solenne in quest’ora’ is one of the highlights of the evening.
David Pountney has again directed a masterful evening of fine singing and acting, conjured from a difficult opera to stage.
The use of the chorus as revolutionary soldiers and as monks is well executed and their wall of sound is unforgettable.
There are some curious features of the evening. The monks are decked out as blood-stained bishops, singing as they self-flagellate with rope whips as they guide Leonora to her hermit’s cave.
But this is ultimately a successful and moving production and well worth seeing despite its almost three and a half hours length.
Until 17 February, then touring. www.wno.org.uk