It’s ironic that just when it is announced that the contract of Welsh National Opera’s artistic director will not be renewed, David Pountney stages one of the finest productions he has ever given the company.
The Force of Destiny is a difficult piece to bring off. Epic in scale, it purveys a narrative in which an accidental death inaugurates a complex sequence of events through which fate pursues the three central characters to their doom.
Yet interspersed with these high-flown scenes are others showing the beleaguered lives of the populace in peace and war – often set in a manner resembling comic opera. The result frequently falls apart.
Yet Pountney and his design team show how it can be held together, with the two components uniting to reinforce Verdi’s dark message of the random tragedy of human existence and the inability of the church to heal the wounds of those who suffer. Here the whole enterprise has an admirable tautness from first to last.
Presiding over the lengthy evening is the figure of fate herself, personified by Justina Gringyte, who doubles as the warmongering Roma girl Preziosilla and Curra, the maid who tries to hasten Donna Leonora in the disastrously delayed elopement of the opening scene.
As the opera’s hard-pressed heroine, Mary Elizabeth Williams brings flexibility and imagination to her vocal performance, with Gwyn Hughes Jones matching her note-for-note as her racially abused lover Don Alvaro; less vocally magnetic – though equally dramatically focused – is Luis Cansino as her brother Don Carlo.
Doubling as Leonora’s father and the Father Superior, Miklos Sebestyen is powerfully effective, while Donald Maxwell makes something grimly comic out of mean-spirited monk Melitone.
The WNO chorus and orchestra are on peak form under Carlo Rizzi, who offers a thrilling account of the score.