Theatre in Wales

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La Forza del Destino

Welsh National Opera , Wales Millennium Centre , February-10-18
La Forza del Destino by Welsh National Opera
The forces of destiny lie all around us and run deeply through Verdi’s compelling music. She is a witch-like figure dressed in black carrying an ominous looking black gilded staff, she pounds the earth with it three times, each to a single note from the orchestra. In another guise she is glamorous and glittery, urging innocent young men to war. Justina Gringyte grasps the role with a quiet touch of menace and sings with a very fine multi-coloured mezzo.

This is a production by WNO’s Artistic Director David Pountney and it has his magic all over it. He is able to give the work an immediacy that makes the characters so real and captivating that we can almost feel their pain. His sparse, bold setting, excellently designed by Raimund Bauer captures the bleakness of the story. A giant sized poster tells us that Peace is broken; we are in the time of the Spanish civil war. Ill-omened images, Leonora’s dreams are projected up on to it.

She is planning to run away from her dominating father with her new love Don Alvaro. In an altercation Don Alvaro relents and throws his gun to the floor. It accidentally kills Leonora’s father and they flee. Leonora’s brother, Don Carlo is determined to seek revenge. We join them on the seemingly long road of destiny.

Pountney and his cast give us a reality more associated with drama than opera; these are real people and we feel for them. Mary Elizabeth Williams’ Leonora is totally engaging and her singing quite beguiling. In the role of her lover Don Alvaro, Gwyn Hughes Jones has never sung better and strikes a strong appealing character. Luis Cansino’s Don Carlo has that same feel of realty. His sturdy baritone full of strength. In the fullness of war they do not recognise each other, Don Alvaro saves Don Carlo’s life and an unexpected warmth develops between them. But not for long, they both wander, lost into the uncertain future.

There is no happy ending as Carlo Rizzi, at one with the WNO orchestra brings this engrossing and exciting evening to a close. There are moments of Pountney’s surreal comedy and a warm hearted prelate from Donald Maxwell yet they still remain under the control of La Forza del Destino.




Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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