In January 1861 Verdi – who hadn’t worked on a new opera for 2 years (his last opera, “Un ballo in maschera” is from 1859) – was still debating whether or not accepting to be a candidate to the first Italian parliament. In the same period he received an offer from the St. Petersburg theater to compose a new opera for the following season.
He debated on the subject for some time but eventually opted for the Spanish drama Don Alvaro, o La fuerza del sino by Angel de Saavedra y Ramirez. As Verdi himself wrote to his French editor, La forza del destino is a “big and powerful drama, and I’m really in love with it“. He started writing in September and was done with it by December.
As smoothly as things went in the early stages, this opera is known to have had troubles since its first staging: the primadonna, for whom Verdi had written the role, was indisposed and they could not find a replacement, being forced to postpone the premiere; the Spanish premiere was partially cut by the censorship; on top of it, Verdi had quite a few doubts, as it seemed like the audience was put off by the number of deaths throughout the opera.
As a curiosity, with the years this opera acquired the weird fame of bringing bad luck. Musicians in the pit and on stage always kid around about it.
Giuseppe Verdi painted by Giovanni Boldini
Giuseppe Verdi – An analysis of the Ouverture from La forza del destino
In case you don’t have it at hand, here’s a quick link to the score.
The opening Sinfonia was added by Verdi in 1869 with the idea of an opening piece but also of a standalone work. The Sinfonia starts with 3 calling chords. Calling as in calling for the attention of the audience.
At this point in time, theaters’ lights were still staying on and people were chatting, eating, and generally enjoying themselves. Aside from the dramatic purposes of introducing us to the subject of the opera, these chords were also telling the audience that the show was about to start.
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