We believe that La forza del destino is the most complete of all Verdis works, in the richness and inspiration of its melodies, as in its development and orchestration.
Le journal de Saint-Pétersbourg, November 1862
It is difficult to imagine Verdi, that most musically energetic of nineteenth century Italian composers, retiring to his country estate and taking enthusiastically to agriculture; but after the success of Un ballo in maschera in 1859 he went into temporary retirement and seemed to relish a quieter life. For a while, none of the offers that he received from European opera houses appealed to him and he was content to wait for a really challenging commission; it was not until December 1860 that the right approach was made. Enrico Tamberlik, a tenor who had already sung with great success throughout Europe in several of Verdis earlier operas, wrote from St Petersburg urging the composer to consider a new work for the Imperial Theatre there. This was the invitation that Verdi had been waiting for and he was soon offering suggestions for suitable subjects. In due course the theatre management accepted an adaptation of Angel Saavedras play Don Alvaro, o la fuerza del sino of 1835 and, even though it may not have been explicit, Tamberlik expected a splendid part for himself in the new opera and got it. Once the matter was decided, Verdi composed energetically and in September 1862 he and his wife, Giuseppina Strepponi, made their way to St Petersburg to take charge of rehearsals.
For all the initial enthusiasm with which La forza del destino was greeted, it proved not to be one of Verdis greatest successes and he realised that revisions were necessary. He eventually undertook them, ready for a new production at La Scala, Milan, in 1869, though, prior to that, performances of the earlier version had already been given in London, Rome, Madrid and New York. It was not so much the operas length that caused concern - of the whole of Verdis uvre it is the second longest, next only to Don Carlos but principally that the composer was keen to alter sections of the third act and the horrifyingly tragic fourth act, at the close of which the three protagonists all meet their deaths. In the revised version Don Alvaro survives, having killed Carlo, who, in turn, fatally stabs his sister Leonora only a little less grim than the original. One other improvement was Verdis replacement of the short prelude with a new dramatic overture, which is now equally familiar as a concert piece. The revisions brought the success for which Verdi strove and La forza del destino has since been given many memorable productions, even if its popularity has never rivaled that of some of his more tightly constructed and melodic operas. It was first performed at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, in 1918 with Rosa Ponselle, Enrico Caruso and Giuseppe di Luca, but at Covent Garden not until 1931, when Ponselle sang with Aureliano Pertile and Benvenuto Franci.
This is the earliest complete commercial recording made of La forza del destino, although it suffers from the cuts frequently made in performances of those days; the main loss is the scene for tenor and baritone in Act 3, which incorporates the duet Sleale! Il segreto fu dunque violato? Nevertheless, the choice of principals could scarcely have been bettered in 1940s Italy and, under Maestro Marinuzzi, they create a fine sense of ensemble throughout, despite the disruption that recording in four-minute sections on 78s must have caused. More vividly than many of its complete successors on disc, this Forza conveys the theatricality of its subject, which so appealed to Verdi and, fortunately, tempted him out of his rustic retirement.
La forza del destino was first performed on 10th November (29th October Russian style) 1862 at the Imperial Theatre, St Petersburg. The revised version was staged on 27th February 1869 at La Scala, Milan.
Born in 1905, the Neapolitan soprano Maria Caniglia made her début at the age of 25. She then sang regularly at La Scala, Milan, her final performances there being in 1951. Caniglia appeared at the Metropolitan in 1938/9 and at Covent Garden both before the war and during the 1950 La Scala visit. She created rôles in contemporary operas, but was best heard in nineteenth century lyric/dramatic Italian repertory and verismo. Her recordings, including complete performances of Tosca, Aida, Un ballo in maschera and Verdis Requiem, show a rich, dramatic voice, occasionally imperfect in intonation but undeniably exciting. Caniglia died in 1979.
Galliano Masini was born in 1896 in Livorno, and made his début there as Cavaradossi. He first sang in Rome in 1930, appearing there regularly for many years. He sang at La Scala from 1932 and undertook five seasons in South American opera houses. Masinis first appearances at the Verona Arena in 1935 were followed by performances in Chicago and at the Met, where he sang in Aida, Lucia di Lammermoor, Tosca and La Bohème. In 1946 Masini sang Radames in the first production at the Caracalla Baths in Rome and he retired in 1957. He died in 1986.
Ebe Stignani was born in Naples in 1903, made her operatic début there at the age of 22 and triumphed as one of the worlds leading dramatic mezzos until retirement in 1958. Toscanini engaged her for La Scala in 1926, after which she sang extensively throughout Italy and Europe. Visits to the Americas in the 1930s and after the war consolidated her supremacy in nineteenth century Italian opera, whilst her repertoire also included rôles by Gluck, Wagner and Bizet. Stignani is particularly remembered for her performances in Norma with Callas at Covent Garden and elsewhere. She died in 1974.
Carlo Tagliabue, born in 1898, studied in Milan and made his début in Lodi in 1922. After performances in Genoa in 1924 he appeared in Lisbon and at La Scala, where he sang for over twenty years. Tagliabue created rôles in several contemporary operas and was a regular principal at Verona Arena; he visited Buenos Aires, New York, San Francisco and London, being particularly admired in Verdi and several Wagnerian rôles. In 1953 he returned to Londons Stoll Theatre in Forza, which he later recorded with Callas. Tagliabue retired to teach in 1958 and died in Monza in 1978.
Gino Marinuzzi, a native Sicilian, was born in 1882. He attended Palermo Conservatory, first conducted opera there in 1901 and worked extensively throughout Italy, Spain and Argentina, giving the local première of Parsifal at the Colón in 1913. In 1917 Marinuzzi conducted the first performance of Puccinis La rondine in Monte Carlo and accepted important musical posts successively in Bologna, Chicago, Rome and Milan. A fine composer, he wrote a Requiem Mass and three operas and made a handful of operatic discs, La forza del destino being his only complete recording.
1 The Sinfonia opens with the repeated three-note Fate motif that is to return in the opera. Other elements are taken from the final duet of Alvaro and Carlo. from Leonoras second act prayer Madre, pietosa Vergine and from her duet with the Padre Guardiano.
2 The curtain rises on a room in the house of the Marchese di Calatrava in Seville. His daughter Leonora is preoccupied, as the Marchese enters to bid her goodnight. He asks why she is so sad, but she cannot answer, as he goes to his own room.
3 Her maid, Curra, urges her not to hesitate in her planned elopement, since any failure will bring mortal danger to her lover, Don Alvaro.
4 In her aria Me pellegrina ed orfana, she sings of her future, far away from her own country and family.
5 Midnight has struck and they hear the sound of a rider approaching.
6 Now Don Alvaro makes his entrance, climbing over the balcony to hold his beloved Leonora in his arms. In a duet he urges her to make her escape from her fathers house, since all is ready for their marriage. Leonora continues to hesitate, but finally decides to elope with her lover. As they are about to make their escape, Curra warns them that someone is coming.
7 The Marchese enters, his sword drawn and followed by two servants, accusing Don Alvaro and Leonora. He tells his men to seize Don Alvaro, who draws his pistol, but then assures the Marchese of the innocence of his daughter. Refusing a duel, he throws his pistol down, but as it hits the floor it goes off, mortally wounding the Marchese, who curses his daughter, as he dies. Don Alvaro and Leonora make their escape.
8 The second act is set in the village of Hornachuelos and the surrounding area. In the great kitchen of an inn the landlord and landlady are preparing a meal. The mayor is sitting by the fire and a student at the table. There are villagers and muleteers, among these last Trabuco. A servant-girl is dancing with one of the muleteers. The three strokes of fate are heard and the dance of villagers and muleteers begins.
9 Supper is ready and the landlady calls the company to table. The student, in fact Don Carlo in disguise, reveals, in an aside, that he is searching for his sister and her seducer. He says grace and the hostess serves the food, while a single couple continues to dance.
10 Leonora, disguised as a man, now makes her hesitant entrance and, alarmed to see her brother, withdraws.
11 The gypsy girl Preziosilla makes her lively entrance, offering to tell fortunes and urging the young men to join the war in Italy against the Germans.
12 She finds the very idea of war inspiring, as does her audience, but breaks off her song to tell Don Carlos fortune, which will be unlucky, realising that he is no student. She resumes her cheerful encouragement to conflict.
13 A group of pilgrims passes by, praying for divine mercy and observed by Leonora., who prays for her own safety.
14 Don Carlo, watched by Leonora, questions the muleteer Trabuco as to the identity of the person he has brought with him, who has not joined them at supper. Trabuco tells him little.
15 Don Carlo has his suspicions and goes on to tell his own supposed story.
16 He is a student, he tells them, Pereda by name, from Salamanca, and is following his friend Vargas, whose father was murdered by his sisters seducer. The girl is now dead and the seducer fled to South America.
17 Preziosilla clearly realises the identity of the student, but the mayor says it is late, and the company bid one another goodnight, while some renew the dance.
18 The scene is a steep mountainside. On one side are precipitous rocks, by the façade of the Church of Our Lady of the Angels and its adjacent monastery. There is a bell-rope and the door of the monastery is shut. At one side is a weather-beaten stone cross. A light can be seen inside the monastery, while the scene itself is lit by moonlight. Donna Leonora approaches, dressed as a man, wearing a greatcoat, a hat and heavy boots. She thanks God that she has reached sanctuary, although she fears discovery, after her brothers revelations. She now knows Don Alvaro is alive, but imagines him, as her brother had said, in South America once more.
19 In her aria Madre, pietosa Vergine, she prays to the Blessed Virgin for forgiveness, resolving to expiate her sin in this place. The voices of the friars are heard within, as she continues her anxious prayer. She rings the bell.
20 Fra Melitone opens the little window in the door and questions her. Leonora asks for the Father Superior, but Fra Melitone is reluctant to give way. He shuts the window and leaves Leonora in doubt.
21 The Padre Guardiano, summoned by Fra Melitone, seeks to know Leonoras business, which she will not divulge in the presence of Fra Melitone, now dismissed by the Padre Guardiano.
22 When they are alone, Leonora reveals that she is a woman, sent by Padre Cleto, and the Padre Guardiano now realises that she is Leonora di Vargas, bidding her kneel before the cross. She seeks refuge in a hermits cave, as another penitent has done before her, there to find peace from her fathers spirit. The Padre Guardiano agrees to allow her to occupy the hermitage and he will bring her food each day. She will see no-one, but there will be a bell she may ring in case of danger. As she enters, they pray for Gods help.
23 The doors of the great church now open and the sound of the organ is heard, as the friars enter, carrying candles, and the Padre Guardiano leads out Leonora, now dressed in a friars habit. He tells the community of Leonoras decision, forbidding anyone to go near the hermits cell, on pain of damnation.
24 The community prays for the protection of the Blessed Virgin over Leonora.
CD 2 0:00
1 The third act is set in Italy near Velletri. It is a dark night and the scene is a wood. Voices are heard, the sound of gambling.
2 Don Alvaro, who has enlisted in the Spanish regiment fighting in Italy, laments his fate, the loss of Leonora and the events that led to it. He tells of his parentage, his fathers hopes in union with an Inca princess and his own misfortunes.
3 He prays to the spirit of Leonora, whom he imagines dead, to help him in his ignominious exile.
4 A cry of treachery is heard and Don Alvaro rushes to the source of the noise. The clash of swords is heard and some officers are seen running in disorder. Don Alvaro now returns with Don Carlo, whose life he has saved and who has just joined the regiment. Don Carlo gives his name as Don Felice de Bornos and Don Alvaro replies, giving his name as Don Federico Herreros. They declare friendship in life and in death. Trumpets call the men to arms and Don Alvaro and Don Carlo are resolved to compete on the field of honour.
5 The scene changes to a room of a high-ranking officer in the Spanish force. It is morning and the sounds of battle are heard. An army surgeon looks out of the window to watch the fighting. He sees Don Alvaro fall wounded but helped by Don Carlo.
6 Don Alvaro is now carried in by four stretcher-bearers, followed by Don Carlo, covered with the dust of battle. A soldier brings in a case, which he leaves on a table. The Spaniards have been victorious and Don Carlo now reveals to Don Alvaro, who seems mortally wounded, his true identity, to the latters dismay.
7 Don Alvaro gives Don Carlo the keys to a case in which there are papers that must be burned, if he dies. The latter swears to carry out this charge and they bid each other farewell.
8 The soldiers carry Don Alvaro into the adjacent room, leaving Don Carlo alone, but he now has doubts as to Don Alvaros true identity, suspecting that he may be his sisters seducer. With the key, he opens the case and takes out a sealed paper, but his honour prevents him from reading it.
9 His honour makes him hold back.
10 He seeks, however, for further proof and finds in the case a portrait of Leonora. Certain now of Don Alvaros identity, he welcomes the news from the surgeon that Don Alvaro will survive, since now he can take revenge, for his sister Leonora and his father.
11 The scene is an army encampment, near Velletri. There are hawkers stalls, selling food and drink. It is night and the place is deserted. A patrol enters cautiously, exploring the camp.
12 They go and, as dawn breaks, trumpets and drums are heard. The camp comes to life, with Spanish and Italian soldiers leaving their tents, taking their swords and weapons. Boys and soldiers play at dice and camp-followers sell food and drink. Preziosilla emerges, happy to tell fortunes and prophecy good luck in battle.
13 The soldiers drink to the health of their leaders.
14 Trabuco now appears, hawking his cheap wares, scissors, brooches, soap and the like, and buying from the men.
15 Peasants appear, begging for bread. The women hawkers join a band of new recruits in a dance, a tarantella.
16 They declare, with Preziosilla, that war brings folly.
17 As the dance ends, Fra Melitone appears, coming from Spain to heal the wounded and seek alms, and, it seems, to deliver a sermon, inveighing against their behaviour and declaring them sewers of sin, with only the purging of this pitch able to bring peace, a pun that he repeats again and again, as the men seek to beat him.
18 Preziosilla intervenes, telling them to let Fra Melitone go, and the act ends with the Rataplan chorus, imitating the sound of the drum in its rhythm.
19 The fourth act opens in the monastery of Our Lady of the Angels, on the mountainside near Hornachuelos. The Padre Guardiano passes, reading his breviary, and beggars of all kinds are seen, holding their bowls and plates and seeking charity. They have been waiting for an hour and are hungry. Fra Melitone emerges, wearing an apron and helped by a lay-brother to carry a great cooking-pot. The beggars press around him, seeking food, and he reproaches them with their fecundity, breeding instead of saying the rosary, as he loses his patience. The beggars regret the absence of Padre Raffaele , but Fra Melitone has had quite enough of the poor and soup. The Padre Guardiano intervenes, while the beggars praise Padre Raffaele, a holy man, a true saint, who treats them so well. Fra Melitone kicks the cooking-pot over and tells them to go, while they continue to praise the absent Padre Raffaele. He takes a white handkerchief from his sleeve and wipes his brow, once they have all gone. The Padre Guardiano urges humility and Fra Melitone goes on to comment on the strange behaviour of Padre Raffaele and wonders about his origin. The Padre Guardiano explains that Padre Raffaele, now to be clearly identified with Don Alvaro, is disillusioned with the world, from which he seeks refuge in prayer and vigils.
20 The bell sounds. Fra Melitone opens to Don Carlo, who seeks Padre Raffaele. He is told that there are two, one fat and deaf, the other dark in complexion. Don Carlo realises that he has found his quarry and now only Don Alvaros blood can cleanse the stain on his honour.
21 Don Alvaro comes in, recognised at once by Don Carlo, who seeks revenge, while Don Alvaro tries to resist the provocation offered, assuring him of the purity of Leonora, whom he still loves.
22 Eventually, after pleading with him, Don Alvaro can stand no more of Don Carlos insults and calls for a sword. Don Carlo strikes his enemy and now the two men fight.
23 The final scene is set in the inaccessible place where Leonora has her cell, with the bell provided for any emergency. It is dusk and it grows darker, as the moon rises. Leonora is heard from within and then comes out, pale and distraught, praying God for peace from her sufferings and lamenting the fate that parted her from her lover. Now she would prefer death, but it is in vain that she seeks peace. She goes towards the rock where the Padre Guardiano has left her food and now hears someone approaching, calling down a curse on whoever profanes the sacred place, as she retreats into her cave.
24 The voice of Don Carlo is heard, calling for confession and the last rites, as he dies. Don Alvaro appears, his sword stained with blood. He casts it aside and approaches the hermitage, seeking help for the dying man. He is amazed when he finds that the hermit is his Leonora but now is forced to reveal that the man who is dying, killed by his hand, is her brother. Leonora goes out to tend her brother, but Don Carlo, as he dies, strikes her. She returns, wounded and supported by the Padre Guardiano. Don Alvaro inveighs against this vengeance of God.
25 The Padre Guardiano tells him not to blaspheme but to give in to the will of God. Leonora, now dying, promises Gods pardon: she will go before him to the promised land, where they will meet again. She dies with Alvaros name on her lips.
The present transfer was made from two sets of original Italian Cetra pressings using a variety of stylus sizes for optimum reproduction. Editorial Note
Long thought to have been the victim of a political assassination by partisans, the Sicilian-born conductor, Gino Marinuzzi, in reality died in a Milanese hospital on 17th August 1945 from acute liver failure. The myth of his violent death, seemingly inspired by an article in 1945 in the Socialist newspaper LAvanti, which threatened death to all cultural collaborators with Fascism, was no doubt given credence by the knowledge that in 1943 Marinuzzi had been appointed Artistic Director of La Scala and had later adhered to Mussolinis puppet Government, known as the Republic of Salò. Both these actions, however, were the result of pressure exerted by the German Occupation Authorities and accepted by Marinuzzi so as not to endanger the life of his son, who at the time was being held in a Nazi work camp.
No less intriguing are the circumstances of this Cetra recording of La forza del destino, Marinuzzis only commercial recording of an opera, first released in 1943 and previously identified as having been recorded either in 1939 or summer 1941, with the Turin Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of the EIAR (Italian National Broadcasting Authority). The truth, however, would appear to be not so straightforward.
In 1940, at the behest of the Italian Ministry of Culture, the EIAR organised a series of concerts, broadcasts, recordings and other musical events to mark the fortieth anniversary of the death of Giuseppe Verdi. The inauguration of the celebrations took place on December 14th, 1940, in Rome, with a performance of the Messa da Requiem conducted by Victor De Sabata, of which, unfortunately, only fragments have survived. In February 1941 the EIAR proposed a radio recording of La forza del destino conducted by Fernando Previtali. However, at the request of Francesco Cocchetti, the Director of the EIAR, it was decided to offer the recording to Gino Marinuzzi, who had already conducted the opera with the Rome Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of the EIAR, in the capital, on September 15th, 1940 and had considerable experience of conducting opera at La Scala, Milan.
From an examination of letters-1 exchanged during May 1941 between Marinuzzi and Anita Colombo, a former Secretary General of La Scala, who, after having been ousted from her post on account of her anti-fascist sentiments, set up her own artists management agency, it is possible to establish that this recording of La forza del destino was scheduled to begin on May 22nd, 1941 -2, with rehearsals starting two days earlier, and was probably concluded before the end of the month. These letters also shed light on Marinuzzis aversion to the Turin Chorus and Orchestra, and on the rôle of la signorina (as Anita Colombo was also known) in arranging for a large number of the members of the Chorus, and a smaller number of the members of the Orchestra, of La Scala, Milan, to join forces with their colleagues in Turin. On page 395 of the chapter La guerra (The war years) in her book ll signore del golfo mistico-3, Marinuzzis daughter refers to the incisione con la casa discografica Cetra della Forza del Destino con lorchestra della Scala (Cetra recording of La Forza del Destino with the orchestra of La Scala). She also quotes from a letter from her father to la signorina in which Marinuzzi expresses his dissatisfaction with il bisogno di fare presto (the need to hurry up) and with the insufficient time at his disposal to prepare his forces, including Caniglia and Masini who had not previously sung La forza del destino under his baton.
From the above it would appear that at the very least a good number of the members of the Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, Milan took part in the Turin recording-4 made under less than ideal conditions. One may add that as the Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, Milan were contracted to La Voce del Padrone (His Masters Voice), their name could not be used by another record company so that their participation here would have been concealed.
With thanks to Angelo Scottini and Paolo Zeccara
1 Tema con variazioni, Epistolario artistico di Gino Marinuzzi (Mondadori, 1995)
2 Ibid., Letter from Marinuzzi dated 17th May, 1941
3 ll signore del golfo mistico (Lia Marinuzzi Cei-Perrotti, Edizione Sansoni, Firenze, 1982)
4 The most likely venue was the Teatro di Torino (Theatre of Turin). It was here that the Turin Symphony Orchestra of the EIAR gave most of its concerts until September 1942 when the city was heavily bombed by the Allies and the orchestra was transferred to Venice.