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Giuseppe Verdi

The Force of Destiny

Giuseppe Verdi, La forza del destino (2008, Bruxelles)

Verdi's La forza del destino, or The Force of Destiny, shows us the composer in his fine maturity,that is, at a time when he had already composed the great successes Rigoletto, Il trovatore, and La traviata. He was a famous man, a senator in his native Italy, and known throughout Europe. La forza was, in fact, composed for Russia, and it had its world premiere in 1862 at St. Petersburg. It was based on a drama by a romantic Spanish nobleman, the Duke of Rivas, and from its very beginning one senses the romantic and dramatic quality of that play.


(The Force of Destiny)


Opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi with libretto in Italian by Francesco Piave, based on a
play by Angel Рёгег de Saavedra, Duke of Rivas





DON ALVARO, her lover

PADRE GUARDIANO, the father superior
FRA MELITONE, a Franciscan monk




Time: 18th century
Places: Spain and Italy

First performance at St. Petersburg, November 10, 1862


Marchese di Calatrava:

Bass. Father of Leonora and Carlo. He has forbidden his daughter's marriage to Alvaro, a half‐caste. As the young couple try to elope, Alvaro's gun accidentally goes off, killing the Marchese. Created (1862) by Sig. Meo.

Don Carlo di Vargas:

Baritone. Son of the Marchese di Calatrava and brother of Leonora. When his father is killed, albeit accidentally, by Alvaro, Leonora's lover, Carlo vows vengeance. He follows them when they escape but Leonora and Alvaro become separated and each believes the other dead. At an inn, disguised as a student, Pereda, Carlo is encouraged to join the army fighting the Germans in Italy. In the army camp he meets Alvaro. Not knowing each other's identity, they become firm friends. When Alvaro is injured, Carlo finds his sister's portrait among Alvaro's papers and realizes the truth. He and Alvaro begin to fight a duel but are separated by the troops and Alvaro enters a monastery. Years later, Carlo arrives at the monastery demanding to see ‘Padre Raffaele’, who is Alvaro. Again they fight, and Carlo is fatally wounded. Summoning help from a nearby cave, Alvaro recognizes Leonora. As she gives her brother the last rites, Carlo stabs her. He has avenged his father. Aria: Urna fatale del mio destino (‘Fatal urn of my destiny’); duet (with Alvaro): Da un lustro ne vo in traccia (‘For five years I've been searching for you’). It was just after opening the urna fatale on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, New York, in 1960 that the baritone Leonard Warren ‘pitched forward like an oak felled’ (Rudolf Bing: 5000 Nights at the Opera) and was pronounced dead by the company doctor. Created (1862) by Francesco Graziani.

Piero Cappuccilli live in La Scala (1978) with Urna fatale from Verdi's La forza del destino

Donna Leonora di Vargas:

Soprano. Daughter of the Marchese di Calatrava, brother of Carlo di Vargas. She is in love with the half caste Alvaro but her father has forbidden their marriage. As they try to elope, the Marchese intercepts them. Alvaro's gun accidentally goes off, killing her father. She and Alvaro flee, but become separated and each believes the other to have died. Leonora knows her brother is pursuing them both, determined to avenge their father's death. She seeks refuge in a monastery, requesting permission to spend the rest of her life in solitary confinement in a sacred cave. Years later, Alvaro comes to the monastery and becomes a monk. There Carlo seeks him out and the two men fight a duel. Carlo is fatally wounded and Alvaro calls to the cave for someone to give him absolution. He and Leonora recognize each other, but as she gives her brother the last rites, Carlo stabs her. In Alvaro's arms at last, Leonora dies. Arias: Me pellegrina ed orfana (‘As wanderer and orphan’); Madre, pietosa Vergine (‘Holy Mother, compassionate Virgin’); Pace, pace, mio Dio (‘Peace, give me peace, O Lord’). Created (1862) by Caroline Barbot. 

Anja Harteros sings "Pace, pace, mio dio!" from LA FORZA DEL DESTINO

Don Alvaro:
Tenor. A half‐caste South American prince in love with Leonora, daughter of the Marchese di Calatrava. Her father has forbidden their marriage and they decide to elope. The Marchese interrupts their departure and Alvaro throws his gun down in surrender, but it goes off, killing the old man. Leonora's brother vows vengeance. The young lovers become separated during their escape. Thinking Leonora must be dead, Alvaro joins the Spanish army, fighting in Italy in the war between Spain and Napoleon. He is injured and cared for in the camp by his new friend, who is Leonora's brother Carlo under an assumed name. Alvaro gives Carlo his private papers to look after, and Carlo finds his sister's portrait among them, so revealing Alvaro's true identity. Their duel is interrupted by an army patrol. Alvaro enters a monastery as Padre Raffaele. Found there by Carlo, they again fight and Carlo is seriously wounded. Calling for a hermit in the nearby caves to give absolution to the dying Carlo, Alvaro recognizes Leonora. As she gives her brother the last rites, he stabs her and she dies in Alvaro's arms. (In the original version, Alvaro then threw himself over a precipice, but Verdi toned this down in 1869 for the Milan version, as above.) Aria: O tu che in seno agli angeli (‘You who rose to the bosom of the angels’); duet (with Carlo): Solenne in quest’ ora (‘In this solemn hour’). Created (1862) by Enrico Tamberlick. 

Jonas Kaufmann; "O tu, che in seno angeli"; La forza del destino"; Giuseppe Verdi - Pier Giorgio Morandi - Conductor Orchestra dell'Opera di Parma 2013

Padre Guardiano:

Bass. A Franciscan monk, the Father Superior at the monastery where Leonora goes for help and peace. He is gentle with her, understanding her distress, and warns her that the solitary life she is proposing for herself will be very lonely. However, thinking that her beloved Alvaro is dead, she is sure that this is what she wants, and the Padre agrees to her request. She will live alone in a sacred cave. He will take her food each day, but otherwise she will see nobody. He warns the monks that they must not attempt to discover her identity. Duet (with Leonora): Più tranquilla l'alma sento (‘My soul becomes more peaceful’). This duet is in the direct line of father–daughter duets in so many of Verdi's operas. Created (1862) by Gian Francesco Angelini.

Piu tranquilla l'alma sento "La Forza del Destino" 

Fra Melitone:

Bass. A Franciscan monk at the monastery where Leonora seeks help. He admits her and ushers her into the presence of Padre Guardiano, the Father Superior. Years later, he and the Father are talking together when her brother Carlo arrives, seeking vengeance. Created (1862) by Achille de Bassini.

G. Verdi: LA FORZA del DESTINO - Aria Melitone e Duetto Melitone Guardiano - Cond. GIORGIO PAGANINI


Mezzo-soprano. A young gypsy‐girl. At the inn in the village of Hornachuelos, near Seville, she tells fortunes and advises the men to join the army and fight in Italy against the Germans. Arias (with ens.): Al suon del tamburo (‘To the sound of the drum’); (with soldiers) Rataplan (‘Ratatat’). Created (1862) by Constance Nantier‐Didiée (who apparently tried to prevent the engagement of Caroline Barbot as Leonora; Verdi protested and Barbot was engaged).

Nadia Krasteva - La Forza del Destino - Аl suon del tamburo




The overture—perhaps Verdi's very best overture-is thorougly dramatic and makes use of parts of several arias from the later acts as well as an aggressive little tune sometimes called the "destiny" motive.


The story begins in eighteenth-century Sevffle. Leonora di Vargas, the aristocratic heroine, is in love with one Don Alvaro, who is part Inca Indian. No one of that sort is, of course, considered worthy of marrying a Spanish noblewoman. The proud Marquis of Calatrava, Leonora's father, bids her forget all about Alvaro, but it is this very night that Leonora has already planned to dope with her lover. When the Marquis has left, she confides in her maid, Curra. Her father's kindness, she says, has almost made her give up hex plan for elopement; and so, when Alvaro bursts in through the window, he at first thinks she no longer loves him. But in an impassioned duet they swear eternal faiths and they are about ready to fly when the Marquis re-enters, sword in hand. He believes the worst at once, but Alvaro swears that Leonora is innocent. He offers to die to prove it, and he throws away the pistol he has drawn. Unfortunately, as it falls to the ground, it goes off and the Marquis is killed by the bullet. With his dying breath the old gentleman sets in motion "the force of destiny" by uttering a terrible curse on his daughter—and Alvaro leads his beloved away as the act closes.


Scene 1 Much has happened between Acts I and IL Don Carlo, arrived home, has beard that his sister Leonora has fled with her lover, Don Alvaro, Alvaro having first murdered their father, the Marquis. Naturally, as a good eighteenth-century Spaniard of high birth, he has sworn to murder both his sister and her lover. Meantime, the two lovers have become separated, and Leonora, disguised as a young man and guarded by a faithful old muleteer named Trabucco, is in flight.

The force of destiny is at work, as the act opens, for Leonora and her brother Carlo are lodged under the same roof—the inn at Hornachuelos. Fortunately, Carlo has not seen bis sister, who does not join the merry crowd but hides from him. The Mayor of the town announces dinner, and this gives Carlo an opportunity to question Trabucco, with whom he gets nowhere.


Preziosilla, a gypsy fortuneteller, now whips up things with a martial tune, urging all the fellows to join up with the Italian Army to fight the Germans. No recruiting sergeant could have done better. Then she tells some fortunes—including Carlo’s, which is not very encouraging.

A group of pilgrims is heard passing outside, and a fine, impressive prayer is sung, in which Leonora's soaring soprano is heard above the otters. This over, Carlo again tries to question Trabucco, and again he is unsuccessful. And so, at the request of the Mayor, he tells his own story. His name, says Don Carlo, is Pereda, and be is an honor student at the university. And then he goes on to give a thinly disguised version of the murder of bis father by his sisters lover. It is a fine baritone aria with chorus, beginning Son Pereda, son ricco d'onore, and at its dose the gypsy fortuneteller lets Carla know she has seen through his disguise.

But now it is late. The Mayor tells everyone it is time for bed, and a good-night chorus ends the scene.

Scene 2 Leonora has been badly frightened by so nearly meeting her vengeful brother at the inn, and, still disguised as a young man, she has fled to thе mountains nearby. Here she finds a church and convent, and she sinks before the cross outside to sing her touching prayer, Madre, pietosa Vergine. The gruff, half-comic Friar Melitone answers her knock but refuses her entry and calls up the head of the convent, Fatter Guardiano. In a long and eloquent duet, she identifies herself, finally securing his permission to lead the life of a complete hermit in a nearby cave. No human being may ever see her again—which is precisely the fate that this tragic heroine believes she desires, now that she thinks she has lost her lover, Don Alvaro, forever.

The act ends in what is perhaps the most impressive ensemble in an opera especially rich in big concerted numbers (La Vergine degli angeli—"The Virgin of the angels"). Guardiano summons the entire convent; he tells them of Leonora's determination; and he calls a solemn curse down on anyone who shall disturb her.



Scene 1 The first two acts took place in Spain. The force of destiny now takes many of the principal characters to Italy, to Velletri, to be exact, not very far from Rome. The Italians are fighting invading Germans (a not infrequent occurrence in the history of Italy), and there are many Spaniards fighting on the Italian side. Among them are our friends Don Carlo and Don Alvaro. There is some gambling going on in the Italian camp when the act opens. In the pitiful and melodious aria О tu che fn seno agli angeli (“Oh thou,among the angels”) Don Alvaro bemoans his fate and especially the loss of Donna Leonora, whom he imagines as an angel in heaven. The gamblers start quarreling, and Alvaro saves the life of another man from an attack by fellow-gamblers. This man turns out to be Don Carlo, who has sworn to slay Alvaro. But as they have never before met, and as both give false names, they do not recognize each other, and they swear eternal friendship.

Now, off-stage, a battle commences, and the excited comments tell us that the Germans are beaten off. But Don
Alvaro, seriously wounded and believing himself near death, begs his friend. Don Carlo, to do him one last favor. He is to take a packet of letters from his trunk and, without reading a single one, burn them. This Don Carlo swears to do in Solenne in quest'ora ("Swear in this hour"), a duet made famous through a very old recording by Caruso and Scotti. Alvaro is now carried off by the surgeon for a quick operation, 
and Carlo is left alone with Alvaro's trunk. A passing reaction of Don Alvaro's has made Carlo suspect his real identity, and he is tempted to examine those letters to confirm that suspicion. However, there is no need to break his oath, for he finds enough other evidence in that trunk to convince him that his new-found friend is in truth Don Alvaro—the slayer of his father and supposed betrayer of his sister.

Just then the surgeon returns to tell Carlo that Alvaro will live after all. In a great burst of excitement Carlo sings his revenge aria, Egli e salvo! ("He is to liver). Now, he emits, he may carry out his revenge not only on Alvaro but on his sister Leonora as well!


Scene 2 takes us to the camp of the common soldiers. Here we meet some of out old friends from the previous act Preziosilla plies her trade as a fortuneteller; Тгаbucco, the muleteer, has become a peddler, selling things like scissors, pins, and soap to the soldiers and camp followers; and Friar Melitone (who treated Leonora so shabbily at the convent) preaches a ridiculous sermon till the soldiers can't stand any more of it and тип him out of camp. It is a jolly scene, and it ends with one of the jolliest pieces Verdi ever composed. This is the Rataplan, in which Preziosilla, carrying a drum, urges the men on to deeds of derring-do. With practically only a drum for accompaniment, this number is a real technical challenge for the chorus of any opera company.


Scene 1 Although the last act is essentially both sad and dramatic, it begins with one of Verdi's few genuinely comic scenes. Back in Spain in the courtyard of the convent near Hornachuelos, the crusty old Friar Melitone is dishing out soup to the beggars. He is so unpleasant about the business that they wish they might again see a certain "Father Raphael" handling the ladle. This so angers Melitone that he kicks over the caldron of soup9 and the beggars depart.

The good old Abbot Guardiano reproves Melitone for his bad temper, and they briefly discuss the character of Father

Raphael. He, of course, is none other than Don Alvaro in disguise, and Melitone tells how he had driven the quiet man almost mad by referring to him as a wild Indian.

Now Don Carlo enters and asks for Father Raphael—the one with the dark skin. While Alvaro—as we may as well call him—is summoned, Carlo gloats over his prospective revenge^ Alvaro, dressed as a monk,comes in, and a long duet follows. First Alvaro refuses to fights for he is now a monk, and he has already slain one member of Carlo’s family, even though accidentally. Don Carlo, however, piles insult on insult; and when he finally attacks Alvaro's proud race—the Incas—the monk seizes the second sword that Carlo has thoughtfully provided, and the two rush off to duel.

Scene 2 takes place outside the hut where Leonora has taken up her life as a hermit. She sings her great aria, Pace, pace, begging for the peace of the grave. But as she finishes the aria, a cry is heard off-stage. It is Don Carlo, mortally wounded in the duel. A moment later Alvaro rushes on to get help for Carlo. Thus, after many years, the lovers meet unexpectedly and tragically. Leonora goes to help the dying man, but Carlo, with his last strength, carries out ms oath: he stabs his sister as she bends to help him.

And so, when the Abbot Guardiano comes to see what has happened, the opera closes in a moving trio, Alvaro cursing his fate, and Leonora assuring him of forgiveness in heaven.

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