San Francisco Opera's new production of La Forza del Destino opens next week on Wednesday, November 2nd. The opera company invited subscribers to see a working rehearsal yesterday, and the experience certainly was educational. One could hear the director, Ron Daniels, screaming at the performers, and this is quite a different view than one usually has, to say the least.
The production looks to be an odd mixture of time periods, there are swords and machine guns, Preziosilla wears a red vinyl corset and trousers with a long black vinyl coat, but the dancers in the same scene wear long black gowns with ruffled petticoats. The scenery is bizarre, in the background of the first two scenes is a triumphal arch toppled over, the last scene features an enormous white sculpture of 3 beams leaning on each other like oversized sticks for a campfire. In Act II, the part which occurs in the forest near Velletri, Italy, the floor is covered with a camouflage design.
Though it is perhaps not fair to judge the singers based on this rehearsal, I found the Leonora, soprano Andrea Gruber, to be lacking. She doesn't seem to have much control of her vibrato, and her voice has a breathy, gasping quality. She did have sufficient volume. She fell out of character at times, brushing her hair off her face at inopportune moments, but this may not be representative of what will happen at the actual performances. Don Alvaro was sung rather well by tenor Vladimir Kuzmenko, who also has a good deal of volume. I most enjoyed the Padre Guardiano, bass Orlin Anastassov, but he only sang for Act I Scene 3, the rest was sung by an understudy or stand-in. Fra Melitone, sung by baritone Lucas Meachem, was a good actor, but he is a bit quiet, which was fine for Act I Scene 3, but for Act III Scene 1 he sang with most of the orchestra playing, and one could not make out much of his voice over the din.
The opera itself is strange, the main singers are kept off the stage for many scenes and only sing together at the beginning and the end. Musically, the ending is weak, it simply sputters out into silence. But it may well be I need to listen to this again.