Is it possible to escape your destiny? Verdi’s opera La forza del destino asks that very question.
When Leonora di Vargas’s father, the Marquis of Calatrava forces her to leave the man she loves and stay in the country, she makes a plan to escape this unfair imprisonment. But, the night her beloved Don Alvaro arrives to carry out the plan, her father hears them and tries to stop them. In a fatal accident, Alvaro puts down his weapon and it fires, shooting and killing the Marquis. Alvaro and Leonora flee into the night.
Leonora’s brother, Don Carlo, hunts them. He is certain they are responsible for murdering his father, and he wants vengeance for the crime. In several surprising coincidental meetings, and through many disguises and mistaken identities, Carlo and Alvaro actually end up saving each other’s lives, unaware that they have been aiding their sworn enemies. Through a strange twist of fate, Alvaro and Leonora both seek refuge in the same monastery at separate times, and live there unaware of each others’ presence until Carlo finally tracks Alvaro down. Their fierce fight takes them to Leonora’s door, and she runs to aid her dying brother. In his final moments he cannot forgive her crime and stabs her as she tries to care for him.
"The Force of Destiny"
Opera in 4 acts
Sung in Italian
About 2 hours 45 min + intervals
Spain and Italy around 1750
The mansion of Leonora's family, in Seville
Don Alvaro, a young nobleman from South America (presumably Peru), has settled in Seville, Spain, where he is looked down on by many because of his Inca background. There, he and Donna Leonora, the daughter of the haughty Marquis of Calatrava, have fallen in love. But her father the Marquis violently opposes a match he feels is dishonorable and beneath her, believing her to have been seduced. Notwithstanding her tender regard for her father, who until now has always been kind to her, Leonora is ready to give up family and country in order to elope with Alvaro. Aided by her confidante, Curra. (Me pellegrina ed orfana – "Exiled and orphaned far from my childhood home"), she prepares to leave.
When Alvaro at her arrives to fetch, her, however, Leonora, hesitates, begging for one last day with her father. Alvarro, stunned, releases her from their engagement, saying that she must not love him as much as he loves her. Leonora then relents and they agree to escape as planned. At that moment the Marquis suddenly enters and discovers the couple together. Assuming the worst,he draws his weapons and threatens the young man with death. To remove any suspicion as to Leonora's purity, Alvaro surrenders himself. As he flings down his pistol, it goes off, mortally wounding the Marquis, who dies, uttering a curse on his daughter. The horrified lovers rush out of the room.
An inn in the village of Hornachuelos
About a year has passed since the death of the Marquis of Calatrava. In their flight, Leonora and Alvaro were separated and have lost track of each other, unable to reunite or learn of each other's whereabouts.
The act opens in the crowded dining room an inn, where the guests include the alcalde (town Mayor) and several muleteers and others gathered in the dining room as dinner is about to be served. Leonora's brother Don Carlo de Vargas then enters, bent on avenging the family honor and the death of his father. Carlo has disguised himself as a student from Salamanca by the name of Pereda. (Son Pereda son ricco d'onore – "I am Pereda, of honorable descent"). During the supper, Preziosilla, a pretty gypsy fortune teller joins them and sings a song urging them to enlist in the army (Al suon del tamburo – "When side drums rattle") for Italy's freedom. Leonora arrives in male attire accompanied by Trabuco, a muleteer, on their way to a to Franciscan monastery where Leonora plans to seek refuge. Recognizing her brother, whom she knows wants to kill her, she hides. Carlo/"Pereda" grills Trabuco about the identity of his traveling companion, but the company lets him know they don't like his prying questions. They turn the tables by asking Carlo who he is. He claims to be a University student helping a friend track down the friend's sister and her seducer, who, he claims has returned to his native America. The gipsy girl laughs and says she doesn't believe this story. Overhearing this, Leonora realizes that Alvaro is still alive. She concludes he has betrayed and abandoned her, and she slips away without being discovered.
A monastery nearby
Leonora, seeking sanctuary and solitary atonement, has come to take refuge in the monastery intending to live the rest of her life as a hermit (Son giunta! Grazie, o Dio! Estremo asil quest'è per me! ... Madre, pietosa Vergine, – "I've arrived! Thank heaven! My last resort and hope"... "Mother, merciful Virgin".) After a somewhat surly reception by Fra Melitone, she tells the abbot, Padre Guardiano, her true name and her wish to spend the remainder of her life in the monastery's hermitage. The abbot recounts the trials she will have to undergo. Padre Guardiano agrees to direct her to a secret cave in the mountains, where he alone will bring her food and where she will find a bell which she is to ring only in times of great danger of if she is on the point of death. Leonora, Padre Guardiano, Fra Melitone, and the other monks join in prayer as she is formally accepted as tenant of the hermitage.
A forest near Velletri, in Italy
Meanwhile Alvaro, believing Leonora to be dead, has joined the Spanish army under the name of Don Federico Herreros and has distinguished himself for bravery (La vita è inferno all'infelice ... O tu che in seno agli angeli – "Life is a hell to an unhappy man." ... "Oh, you who dwell with the angels"). He is interrupted by cries for help and rescues a man from two assassins. It is Don Carlo, who has newly joined the same regiment, also under an assumed name: Don Felix Bornos. The two become friends and march off side by side to fight in the Battle of Velletri, a historical event which occurred in 1744.
The officers' quarters
Alvaro is brought into the officers' quarters, gravely wounded in the chest. Thinking he is about to die, he entrusts the key to a casket to his friend "Don Felix" (Carlo). The box contains packet of letters, which Alvaro says contain a secret. He makes his friend swear to burn them without reading them: (Solenne in quest'ora, giurarmi dovete far pago un mio voto – "You must swear to me in this solemn hour, to carry out my wish."). Felix/Carlo assures Alvaro that he won't die and that he will be decorated with the Order of Calatrava for his bravery. At the name Calatrava Alvaro shudders and exclaims, "No!". Carlo is taken aback. He is afraid that "Don Federico" (Alvaro) may in truth be the mysterious seducer who killed his father. He resolves to look at the letters to settle his doubts. (Morir! Tremenda cosa! ... Urna fatale del mio destino – "To die! An immense thing... Begone, fatal vessel of my destiny!"). As his wounded friend is taken away on the surgeon's stretcher, he opens the casket, finds his sister's portrait, and realizes Alvaro's true identity. At that moment a surgeon brings word that Don Alvaro may recover. Don Carlo exults at the prospect of avenging his father's death.
A camp near the battleground
Having recovered, Alvaro is confronted by Carlo. They begin to duel, but are pulled away from each other by the soldiers. As they restrain Carlo, the anguished Don Alvaro vows to enter a monastery.
The soldiers gather. Trabucco, the peddler, tries to sell them his wares; Fra Melitone chastises them for their godless ways; and Preziosilla leads them in a chorus in praise of the military life (Rataplan, rataplan, della gloria – "Rum-tum-tum on the drum is the music that makes a soldier's martial spirit rise").
Impoverished peasants from the region approach Fra Melitone at the monastery at Hornachuelos for food and Padre Guardiano gently scolds Melitone for his less than charitable behavior towards them. Don Carlo then approaches, having learned of the presence of Don Alvaro there. Under the name of Father Raphael, Alvaro has indeed entered the monastery, near which is Leonora's cave. Alvaro offers peace, but when Carlo taunts him as a half-breed Alvaro takes up the challenge and the two rush from the monastery. (Le minacce, i fieri accenti – "May the winds carry off with them").
A desolate spot near Leonora's hermitage
Leonora, longing for the peaceful release of death, restates her love for Alvaro and begs God for peace. (Pace, pace mio Dio! – "Peace, O mighty Father, give me peace!"). The duel between the two men spills over onto the neighboring crags in the vicinity of Leonora's isolation. Upon hearing the clashing of swords she takes refuge in her cave. Carlos is mortally wounded by Alvaro, who invades the hermit's sanctuary to request the last offices for the dying man. Leonora and Alvaro recognize each other. Alvaro tells her of what has happened, and she rushes to embrace her dying brother, as she bends over him, he stabs her in the heart. The Father Superior, who has come in answer to Leonora's alarm bell, orders Alvaro to stop cursing fate and to humble himself before God. The dying Leonora joins him in this plea, and Alvaro declaims that he is now redeemed.
[Original version: Overcome by the guilt at having killed or caused the death of all the Calatravas, Alvaro jumps to his death into the nearby ravine, cursing humankind, over the protests of Father Guardiano].
The Marquis of Calatrava – Bass
Leonora – Soprano (spinto)
The daughter of the Marquis of Calatrava
Don Carlo di Vargas – Baritone (lyric)
The son of the Marquis of Calatrava
Don Alvaro – Tenor (spinto)
Curra – Mezzo-soprano
Preziosilla – Mezzo-soprano (lyric)
A young gypsy
Mayor – Bass
Maestro Trabuco – Tenor
A muleteer and peddler
Il Padre Guardiano (The Father Superior) – Bass
Fra Melitone - Baritone
A surgeon - Bass
Place of birth: Le Roncole, Italy
Place of death: Milan, Italy
Verdi is one of our most beloved opera composers with hits like Rigoletto, Aida and Falstaff. He was a very productive composer, writing nearly 30 operas spanning from 1839 to 1893.
In his twenties tragic events unfolded when Verdi lost his two children in infancy and shortly thereafter his first wife. He remarried years later to the renowned soprano Giuseppina Strepponi who became his life companion.
Verdi is known for modernising Italian opera by writing long passages of through-composed music and unifying acts for a more continuous dramatic development. This is more noticeable in his later works. He came to dominate the opera scene after an era of bel canto composers such as Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini.
“To copy the truth can be a good thing, but to invent the truth is better, much better. ”
Verdi was a food lover, adored Shakespeare and the only piece of chamber music he wrote was a string quartet.
Verdi and Wagner were born in the same year. They were known to be rivals even though they never met.
Most prominent operas
I masnadieri 1847
Luisa Miller 1849
Il trovatore 1853
La traviata 1853
I vespri Siciliani 1855
Simon Boccanegra 1857
Un ballo in maschera 1859
La forza del destino 1862
Don Carlo 1867
The libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on a Spanish drama, Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino (1835), by Ángel de Saavedra, 3rd Duke of Rivas, with a scene adapted from Friedrich Schiller's Wallensteins Lager. A few years after it first premiered in 1862 Verdi made extensive revisions to the opera. Antonio Ghislanzoni made additions to the libretto and that became the version most often performed today. The second premiere took place at La Scaka in Milano in 1869.
Francesco Maria Piave was an Italian librettist, journalist, translator, poet and stage manager at Teatro La Fenice in Venice. He wrote 10 librettos for Verdi of which Rigoletto and La traviata are the most well known. Both operas have a very clear musical form. With Piave, Verdi was allowed to decide how the story would be told in terms of the musical structure and arrangement of pieces.
Piave also wrote librettos for other popular composers of his day. He was even commissioned to write the libretto for Aida but suffered a stroke and could not speak. When Piave died, Verdi helped to support his family and he also paid for his funeral.
Ghislanzoni, born in Lecco, Lombardy, wrote libretti for various composers, Aida being his most prominent work. During his lifetime it added up to around 85 libretti for composers such as Verdi, Catalani and Ponchielli. He also worked as a poet, journalist and novelist. During his earlier years he was an aspiring baritone who later gave up the stage.
2d1, 2, 2d1, 2 - 4, 2, 3, 1
timp, perc, 2 harps, strings
On stage: organ, 6 trumpets, 4 side drums
La forza del destino premiered at the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in Saint Petersburg in 1862. The opera was later revised by Verdi and Ghislanzoni, and in 1869 it premiered at La Scala in Milan. This version has become the standard performance version.
Aria - Me pellegrina ed orfana (Leonora)
Duet – Ah, per sempre, o mio bell'angiol (Alvaro, Leonora)
Aria - Al suon del tamburo (Preziosilla)
Aria – Son giunta!.. Madre, pietosa Vergine (Leonora)
Aria - La vergine degli angeli (Leonora)
Aria - La vita è inferno all'infelice (Alvaro)
Duet - Solenne in quest'ora (Don Carlo, Alvaro)
Aria - Urna fatale del mio destino... E s'altra prova rinvenir potessi? (Don Carlo)
Duet - Invano Alvaro (Don Carlo, Alvaro)
Duet - Pace, pace, mio Dio (Leonora)