This correspondent attended the last performance which featured the B cast, with few superstars to distract from the production’s shortcomings.
The costumes (sets and costumes Christian Schmidt) proved a particular challenge. Mostly grim Spanish 1930s period (or that’s what I’m guessing, there were too many styles to be certain), the gypsy Preziosilla appears at first in a contemporary and tightly tailored pink cocktail suit to match her shrill red hair, appearing later in dark and diaphanous red-light-district clothing, only to strut out shortly thereafter in a lime-green Turkish-style “I dream of Jeannie” outfit for her Rataplan, a bloodthirsty call to war should anyone forget what this showstopping number is about.
This second cast had plenty of first line talent. The often-underrated Yusif Eyvazov sang a thrilling Don Alvaro taking vocal risks only few tenors could safely attempt. His voice was powerful and startling in its attack, lyrical and soft in his pleading moments, and hugely musical and warm throughout. Even sans la Netrebko (his wife and frequent stage partner), this is a stand-alone tenor worth catching.
His Leonora was Liudmyla Monastyrska. It’s clearly a challenge to cast an alternative to Netrebko, but this Ukrainian powerhouse undeniably has the chops. Her enormous soprano is controlled and precise, and she also delivers some beautiful pianissimi. Unfortunately, she often rushes back to fortissimo, her obviously natural vocal habitat, sometimes robbing the music of its subtlety.
Christopher Maltman deployed his mellifluous baritone to great effect, though flubbing the entry to Son Pereda son ricco d’onore. He displayed professionalism, vocal mastery as well as convincing acting skills. Without doubt, Maltman is one of the finest Verdian exponents of the moment.
Ferruccio Furlanetto was an extremely luxurious casting as Padre Guardiano, covering both A and B performances. Not a spring chicken with a pedigree dating back to the Karajan era, this Italian basso oozes elegance, distinction and pure aural pleasure.
Jette Parker Young Artists’ Program member Aigul Akhmetshina was a technically secure and often exciting Preziosilla with a youthful and agile voice. Even more remarkably, this mezzo from Bashkortostan (it’s ok, I had to look that up as well; it’s in Russia) threw herself with gusto into the highly choreographed dance sequences, a mix of chorus line, belly dancing and burlesque. I don’t envy her A-cast colleague who needed to compete with the moves of this multi-talent.
Smaller roles were well cast, with Alessandro Corbelli as Fra Melitone, Carlo Bosi as Maestro Trabuco, and Michael Mofidian (another Jette Parker participant worth keeping in view) as the Alcalde.
Antonio Pappano and the Royal Opera House Orchestra offered a lesson in Italianate sound and temperament, and the Royal Opera Chorus once again proved its industry leadership. I can think of no finer operatic chorus at the moment.
Putting on Forza will always be a risk, not least a provocation to the operatic gods. Apart from the bad karma the piece ostensibly attracts (the great American baritone Leonard Warren died onstage at the Met during a Forza performance in 1960), the piece’s length and dramatic weaknesses can unseat even the most hard-boiled directors. But this Forza’s B-cast was easily strong enough to hold a candle to the star-studded A-cast.
Performance attended: April 22, 2019