Washington National Opera: The Force of Destiny

Saturday, October 12, 2013 - Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thrust together by fate, three lives become intertwined on a path to ruin. WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello brings her inventive staging to this new production of Verdi's demanding masterpiece, featuring an exciting cast of international singers.


$25.00 - $300.00

Run Time:

3 hours, 10 minutes

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Giuseppe Verdi's
The Force of Destiny
(La forza del destino)
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
New production

Watch an interview with the cast.

Watch video highlights from the production.

From DC Metro Theater Arts: 

WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello "takes some major risks in this production with her innovative staging, the overture, and the young cast, and they have paid off in a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing production."
From The Baltimore Sun:

The production "has a musical and visual spark that generates a stirring experience." Zambello's concept is "vibrantly realized...The opening night performance benefited from the tight rapport and considerable vocal fire power of the cast."
Adina Aaron as Leonora "lit up the stage. 'Pace, pace, mio Dio' was delivered with great sensitivity. A compelling performance." Giancarlo Monsalve as Alvaro "revealed a burly timbre with baritonal heft and...an ability to sculpt phrases incisively." Mark Delavan as Carlo "filled the house with a vibrant, muscular sound." And conductor Xian Zhang "shaped the score with a keen sense of momentum...and an appreciation for the eloquence of Verdi's melodic lines."

From the blog of Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Philip Kennicott:

"A stylish and often sexy production! By the end of this tale of vengeance, shame, and thwarted forgiveness, the piece takes on some of the primal power of Greek drama, breathless and relentless... Verdi's experimental genius, his restless creativity, shines through."


WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, "known for her psychologically probing interpretations of the operatic repertoire" (The New Yorker), brings her inventive staging to this new production that celebrates the bicentenary of Verdi's birth.
Not seen by WNO audiences in nearly 25 years, Verdi's notoriously demanding masterpiece bursts onto the stage with its famous soaring themes, rousing ensemble passages, and thrilling arias, including the fourth act's show-stopping "Pace, pace mio Dio."
Combined with an exciting cast of international singers conducted by gifted maestra Xian Zhang, this is one opera Washington and the world will be talking about for years to come.


The Force of Destiny zooms in on one troubled family in the midst of an unhinged, lawless society. A displaced Marquis, desperate to hold on to his family's wealth and power, has attempted to prevent the union of his daughter, Leonora, with a foreigner, Alvaro, by removing her from their war-torn urban landscape to an exclusive hotel, some miles outside the city. But Alvaro will not be kept from his beloved, and when a midnight encounter leads to the Marquis' accidental death, the last ties binding the family are shredded. Leonora's brother, Don Carlo, vows revenge and returns to the city--where perversion, chaos, and violence abound--to hunt Alvaro. Meanwhile, Leonora seeks anonymous refuge in a monastery, but the power of fate proves too strong: the three are inexorably drawn together, and the two remaining members of the ill-fated family meet a tragic end.


Donna Leonora of Vargas: Adina Aaron (10/12, 16, 20, 24, 26), Amber Wagner (10/18 & 22)
Don Alvaro: Giancarlo Monsalve (10/12, 16, 20, 24, 26), Rafael Davila (10/18 & 22)
Don Carlo of Vargas: Mark Delavan (10/12, 16, 20, 24), Luca Salsi (10/18, 22, 26)
Preziosilla: Ketevan Kemoklidze
Brother Melitone: Valeriano Lanchas
Father Guardiano: Enrico Iori
Marquis of Calatrava: Peter Volpe

Set Designer: Peter Davison
Costume Designer: Catherine Zuber
Lighting Designer: Mark McCullough
Choreographer: Eric Sean Fogel

Performed in Italian with projected English titles. Titles may not be visible from the rear of the orchestra. Performance Timing: Acts I & II - 80 min.; Intermission - 20 min.; Acts III & IV - 87 min. (3 hours, 10 min.)



Musicologist Saul Lilienstein leads the Thursday, Oct. 24 Opera Insight, starting 1 hour and 15 minutes before the performance and lasting 35–40 minutes. All other Opera Insights start 1 hour before the performance and last 20–25 minutes.
Informative and entertaining, Opera Insights take you inside the composer's mind, behind the scenes of planning a production, and into the history and social context of each opera.
These lectures are free, but patrons must present a ticket from any performance of The Force of Destiny.
Oct. 12 at 6 p.m.: Andrew Jorgensen, director of artistic planning
--Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m.: Andrew Jorgensen
--Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m.: Andrew Jorgensen
--Oct. 20 at 1 p.m.: Francesca Zambello, artistic director
--Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m.: Francesca Zambello
--Oct. 24 at 6:15 p.m.: Saul Lilienstein
--Oct. 26 at 6 p.m.: Andrew Jorgensen


Following these performances:
Sunday matinee, October 20
Tuesday evening, October 22
Join WNO artists for a unique opportunity to ask questions about the production.
All discussions begin immediately after the performance and are free with your ticket.


In Don Álvaro, or The Force of Fate, the play that inspired Verdi's The Force of Destiny, a sense of displacement underlies the action from the beginning. The Marquis of Calatrava disapproves of Don Álvaro, who has asked for the hand of his daughter, Leonora. In an attempt to cool their mutual attraction, he has removed Leonora from Seville to the countryside.

The sense of rootlessness is intensified after a midnight encounter leads to the accidental death of the Marquis. Leonora, disguised as a man, seeks refuge, where she can be alone and assuage her guilt. Alvaro flees, seeking cover in the military under an assumed name. Leonora's brother, Don Carlo, disguised as the student "Pereda," hunts for the pair to avenge his father's death.

In WNO's production, this rootlessness and deception are given expression in an urban landscape, a world of lawlessness and corruption where no one and nothing can be trusted. This teeming city, from which the Marquis tried in vain to protect his daughter, becomes the arena in which the events of Act II play out. It is a world in which the family ties and traditions--to which the late Marquis tried, in vain, to cling to--no longer have any meaning. Don Carlo's actions are driven less by a desire to uphold the family's honor than by hatred for the foreigner, Don Alvaro.

Meanwhile, a war rages, and Alvaro and Carlo each take up arms. Although they are united briefly against a common enemy, Carlo renews his vows of revenge when he learns the identity of his comrade. Reports of the dead and wounded contribute to the numbing of the moral response, in the city and the country alike--there is a sense that anything goes, a feeling of displacement, a general hopelessness. Only Leonora and Alvaro cling to the hope of redemption, separately seeking refuge, where they can repent their love and the chain of events it sets into motion.

The Force of Destiny


The Marquis of Calatrava has moved his family out of the city to keep his daughter, Leonora, from seeing her foreign lover, Alvaro. The action begins one evening after Leonora bids goodnight to her father. Curra, her maid, prepares for the arrival of Alvaro, with whom Leonora plans to elope. When Leonora hesitates, Curra offers encouragement. Soon after Alvaro arrives, Leonora again wavers, but then is resolved. Before they are able to leave, however, they are discovered. Alvaro offers to surrender his life to the Marquis, who considers the foreigner unworthy of death at his hands. When Alvaro throws down his pistol, it goes off, accidentally killing the Marquis, who curses Leonora with his last breath. Her brother, Carlo, seeing what has happened, vows revenge.




A City

Carlo, Leonora's brother, joins the throng in a seedy neighborhood. He has disguised himself as a student and is determined to find and punish his sister and Alvaro. Preziosilla, always a reliable source of information, arrives and confirms that war has been declared, which all agree is welcome news. A group of religious pilgrims enters the scene, and the assembled crowd joins them in prayer. From the sidelines, Leonora, disguised as a boy, prays for her own survival. The "student" questions Trabuco, a salesman, about the person (Leonora) who came in with him, but Trabuco refuses to talk. When asked about his own identity, the "student," claiming to be a friend of Leonora's brother, relates the events of the prologue. Concluding his tale, he says that Alvaro left the country and Carlo returned to his studies. Preziosilla makes clear that she does not believe his story.


A Religious Community 

Leonora, having fled the city, seeks an audience with Father Guardiano of a nearby religious community. When she reveals her identity, he agrees to provide her with sanctuary. She and the members of the community pray together. Guardiano tells the assembly that anyone who approaches or disturbs the solitary penitent will be cursed.


Intermission (20 minutes


A War Zone

Both Carlo and Alvaro are now serving in the military. Alvaro, tormented by his memories and believing Leonora dead, prays for his own death. Hearing cries in the distance, he intervenes in a brawl, saving Carlo's life. Neither man recognizes the other. Giving each other false names, they pledge eternal friendship. In the next military skirmish, Alvaro, gravely wounded, asks his new friend to burn his papers if he dies. Carlo agrees, but curiosity gets the better of him; although he does not read the forbidden papers, he finds Leonora's picture among Alvaro's things. Meanwhile, the soldiers unwind with their women. When Brother Melitone chastises the group for their behavior, they turn on him. Preziosilla comes to the monk's aid, distracting everyone with a song. Later, when Alvaro has fully recovered from his wounds, Carlo reveals his identity and demands vengeance; they are separated by the camp patrol, and Alvaro resolves to seek peace within the religious community.


A Religious Community

Beggars crowd in, seeking charity from members of the religious community. When Brother Melitone becomes annoyed, the people remark that Father Raphael was kinder. Melitone tells Guardiano he suspects Raphael is hiding a secret. Carlo arrives, having learned that Alvaro has taken orders as Father Raphael. Carlo, intent on avenging his father's death, challenges him to a fight. Alvaro protests that he now follows a new path, but Carlo will not relent. The two fight not far from Leonora's sanctuary; when Carlo is mortally wounded, Alvaro asks the nameless penitent hidden within to hear Carlo's final confession. Leonora rushes to the side of her brother who, in his last act, kills her. The dying Leonora and Guardiano attempt to console Alvaro as he reflects on his destiny. 

Watch and Listen

WNO Commentary: The Force of Destiny 1 of 7: Overture and Act One: At the Calatrava Palace in Seville, mid-18th century (audio only)

WNO Commentary: The Force of Destiny 2 of 7: The dramatic structure (audio only)

WNO Commentary: The Force of Destiny 3 of 7: Act Two: Scene One: In the village of Hornachuelos. Scene Two: At a nearby monastery (audio only)

WNO Commentary: The Force of Destiny 4 of 7: Giuseppe Verdi, in his sixth decade (audio only)

WNO Commentary: The Force of Destiny 5 of 7: Act Three: In Italy, during the War of Austrian Succession (audio only)

WNO Commentary: The Force of Destiny 6 of 7: La Forza: gestation, revisions, decisions (audio only)

WNO Commentary: The Force of Destiny 7 of 7: Act Four: Scene One: At the monastery. Scene Two: At a nearby grotto (audio only)

AUDIO PREVIEW: The Force of Destiny

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