La Forza del Destino
Theodossiou, Pentcheva; Machado, Stoyanov, Scandiuzzi, Lepore; Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Regio, Parma, Gelmetti. Production: Poda. C Major/Unitel Classica 724408 (DVD), 724504 (Blu-ray), 178 mins. (opera), 11 mins. (bonus), subtitled
Here's a visually striking Forza. Stefano Poda's simple but imposing sets — textured panels that morph into semblances of iron, stone and painter's canvas and cleverly reconfigure to suggest (but never fully embody) inn and convent, army camp and hermit's grotto — work in happy tandem with the artful lighting (also by Poda) to create moodily effective studies in charcoal and gray, brown and beige and dun. Many of Poda's images are beautiful indeed, and they're done fine justice by the video direction of Tiziano Mancini, who throughout this "Tutto Verdi"series never dishonors his given name.
It's a shame that the production's régisseur, one Stefano Poda, couldn't fill these handsome stage pictures with any kind of meaningful action. Verdi's expansive drama, modeled on his beloved Shakespeare and Schiller, places his very human, very fallible characters in a larger historical context and masterfully balances the private with the public, the tragic mask with the comic. In director Poda's Forza,everything is flattened and abstracted; in costumier Poda's generic Verdi-period uniforms, the hoi polloibehave like a singularly dull bunch of limping dead, with the occasional zombie dance number (need I name the choreographer?) substituted for dirt-and-sweat-and-blood-stained explosions of life. After a fairly straightforward opening, not a single scene rings true.
There's a first-rate Melitone in Carlo Lepore, fuller of voice than the norm, and as characterful as Poda's sober restraints allow him to be. But Melitone alone can't a fine Forza make. Tenor Aquiles Machado looks better than he did in his last Met appearances, in 2008 (he's trimmer, if no taller), but he sounds worse: just after his entrance, his "ma d'amor sì puro e santo," marked cantabile and dolcissimo but here hammered out with blunt aggression, announces a musically inelegant Alvaro; and his ugly, blasted A-flat, A and B-flat shortly thereafter accurately predict the many brutishly bellowed high notes to come. His leading lady, Greek soprano Dimitra Theodossiou, is a weakness of mine, for her old-fashioned style and overall vocal aptness for so many of the big Italian roles; but it's hard to ignore the uneven scale, sagging pitch and strident acuti; the music is driving her voice, it seems, not being propelled by it. (She is not flattered by Poda's costumes, which in the convent scene have her resembling a wrinkled Pierrot.) Vladimir Stoyanov, as the least interesting member of the destiny-dogged central trio, offers a quite decently sung but also quite unremarkable Don Carlo. Roberto Scandiuzzi (Padre Guardiano), hollow-toned and unsteady, sounds appreciably less than the rejuvenated singer I've lately credited him for being. Mirthless Mariana Pentcheva, inexplicably coiffed and costumed as Leonora's doppelgänger, looks terrified on her entrance, and soon enough her sloppily Slavic Preziosilla supplies fair cause for apprehension.
In the pit, Gianluigi Gelmetti does especially well when he's not worried about his leading singers. His prevalently fast tempos seem to speed up still more as the opera progresses ("Rataplan," "Del mondo i disinganni," "Pace, pace," with a notable demurral from Theodossiou at aria's end), as if he couldn't wait for the curtain to fall. It's hard to blame him; I was feeling that way, too. The sound is excellent, if that's an incentive.
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