Forza del destino, La (The Force of Destiny)
  • Giuseppe Verdi. Opera in four acts. 1861.
  • Revised version for the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, in 1869.
  • Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, after the play Don Alvaro, o La fuerza del sino (Don Alvaro, or The Force of Destiny) by the Duke of Rivas, Angel de Saavedra, with an addition from Friedrich Schiller’s Wallensteins Lager (Wallenstein’s Camp). Revision and additions for 1869 by Antonio Ghislanzoni.
  • First performance at the Imperial Theatre, St Petersburg, on 10th November 1862.
Marchese di Calatrava bass
Donna Leonora di Vargas, his daughter soprano
Don Carlo di Vargas, his son baritone
Don Alvaro tenor
Preziosilla, a gypsy girl mezzo-soprano
Padre Guardiano, a Franciscan friar bass
Fra Melitone, a Franciscan friar baritone
Curra, maid to Donna Leonora mezzo-soprano
Alcalde (Mayor of Hornachuelos) bass
Trabuco, a muleteer tenor
Surgeon bass

Leonora has planned to elope with her lover Don Alvaro, who accidentally shoots and kills her father, the Marquis of Calatrava, who curses him as he dies. The lovers are separated in their flight, but Leonora’s brother, Don Carlo, does his best to seek them out, to take revenge. At an inn, where he is disguised as a student, Don Carlo is told by the gypsy Preziosilla that she can see he is in disguise. A muleteer brings a stranger to the inn, Leonora, who sees her brother and makes off, while he sings a ballad to the company that reflects his own story. Leonora now seeks peace in a hermitage, under the protection of a nearby monastery, counselled by the Father Guardian. In the war in Italy, of which Preziosilla had told, Don Alvaro and Don Carlo are both enlisted in the Spanish contingent, both in disguise. Don Alvaro saves Don Carlo’s life and they swear friendship, still without any gleam of mutual recognition. Wounded subsequently in battle, Don Alvaro entrusts a casket and letter to Don Carlo, to be destroyed after his seemingly imminent death. Suspicious, Don Carlo opens the casket and finds there a portrait of Leonora, proof that his supposed friend is in fact Don Alvaro. Meeting him on a later occasion, Don Carlo provokes a duel, but this is interrupted. Don Alvaro resolves to seek peace in a monastery, where he joins the community as Padre Raffaello. Don Carlo seeks him out and offers considerable provocation, leading, as he had hoped, to a duel in which he himself is killed. Don Alvaro seeks help from a neighbouring cell, to discover Leonora, who now approaches her brother. In a last gesture he stabs her, leaving the Father Guardian to counsel Don Alvaro, as Leonora dies.

The overture to La forza del destino makes use of themes from the opera, notably an ominous motif suggesting Fate and Leonora’s second-act aria, Madre, pietosa Vergine (Mother, merciful Virgin). A complex plot, based on what might seem a series of remarkable coincidences and singular failures of perception on the part of the leading players, brings several important and moving duets, notably the closing scene of the second act, where the Father Guardian advises Leonora on the religious life, and the duets between the two younger men, Don Alvaro and Don Carlo, Solenne in quest’ora (In this solemn hour), as it seems Don Alvaro is near to death, and the final duel Col sangue sol cancellasi (Settled only by blood). Don Alvaro’s third-act Oh, tu che in seno agli angeli (Oh, you who are in the bosom of the angels), when he believes Leonora dead, is well known outside its operatic context and Leonora’s Pace, pace, mio Dio (Peace, peace, my God) movingly expresses her continuing feelings of love, as she lives her solitary life, before the final tragedy. The earlier ending of the opera allowed Don Alvaro to kill himself in final despair, after action had been interrupted by a duet of recognition. The new ending was the result of a revision in 1869.