Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
La forza del destino – Synopsis
In the castle of the Marchese di Calatrava in Seville. The Marchese is bidding
Leonora, his daughter good night. After he departs, Leonora admits to Curra, her
chambermaid, that she has promised to elope with Alvaro that very night, only is now
undecided. She knows that her father, the Marchese, will never give his consent to their
marriage, for Alvaro is the sole survivor of a family of pro-Inca nobelemen exterminated
for struggling against the Spanish colonial overlords. Alvaro appears in the room,
entering through the balcony. With great difficulty, he persuades Leonora to run away with
him. They are interrupted by the appearance of her father, who is armed and accompanied by
two servants. Alvaro is prepared to die at the hands of the outraged Marchese, but instead
of killing him, the Marchese orders his servants to seize Alvaro. Forced to defend
himself, Alvaro draws a pistol. Unable to use the gun against the father of the one he
loves, however, he throws it to the ground. The pistol falls to the floor and discharges
on impact. The Marchese is mortally wounded and dies cursing his daughter. Leonora faints
and Alvaro runs away.
Several months later. Leonora is disguised as a man, a muleteer’s assistant.
She finds herself in the village of Hornachuelos, where peasant festivities are under way,
and recognises one of the guests as her brother Carlo. Carlo is seeking to avenge the
honour of his family, under the guise of Pereda, a student in search of his sister and her
lover. Preziosilla, a gypsy girl, tells the fortunes of those who are present and predicts
imminent war with Austria. She calls on everyone to go to Italy and join the army. At the
sight of Pereda, Preziosilla casts doubts on his identity and foretells him a terrible
fate. Leonora prays to be delivered from her brother’s vengeful fury. Carlo tries but
fails to learn from Trabuco, a muleteer, the identity of the silent companion who is
staying away from the festivities. The elderly Alcalde suggests that the student reveal
who he really is. Carlo is allusive and refers to himself as a friend of the Marche’s
s son. Marchese di Calatrava and his son’s thirst for revenge. Toward , the events
continue near the Monastery of Our Lady of the angels, Leonora is tired and still dressed
as a man . She sings of her desperation and her hope of finding peace of mind in the
monastery, where she intends to spend what is left of her life in penance for her sings.
The Father superior (Padre Guardiano) agrees to allow Leonora to remain in a nearby cave.
He pronounces a general curse on anyone visiting the cave or speaking to the anchorite,
who is only allowed to eat whatever he himself takes to feed her. As a last resort, the
hermit may call for help by ringing a bell.
A Spanish army camp near Valletri, Italy. Several years have passed and Alvaro is
serving in the Spanish Army as a captain. Under the alias of Don Federico Herrero, he has
won fame for his outstanding valour. Alvaro reflects on his misfortunes while thinking of
a quarrel brings him running to the rescue of an unknown officer whose life is being
threatened by gamblers. The officer is none other than Carlo, still on Alvaro’s
trail. Carlo introduces himself as Don Felice de Bornos. The two do not recognise each
other and in exchange for having saved his life, Carlo swears friendship to Alvaro.
The battle now flares up again. Alvaro is badly wounded and is rescued by his new
friend. The surgeon who is about to extract the bullet is uncertain as to the outcome of
the operation. To encourage his friend on the brink of death, Carlo promises to have him
appointed a Knight of Calatrava. This name leads to an angry outburst from Alvaro, Alvaro
entrusts Carlo with the key to his purse, where his friend will find a letter to be
destroyed in the event of Alvaro’s death.
Carlo is surprised and disturbed at his friend’s angry reaction to the name of
Calatrava. Resisting the urge to read the letter, Carlo opens the pure and finds a
portrait of Leonora. Alvaro’s identity is revealed. Carlo is glad that the operation
has been successful, as his enemy is alive and he now has the chance of revenge.
Alvaro makes a complete recovery and is amazed to learn that Carlo has challenged him
to a duel. At this point, Alvaro learns that Leonora is still alive. When he hears that
Carlo intends to kill his sister, he immediately takes up the challenge. Believing that he
has killed his friend in the duel, Alvaro throws himself into battle hoping to die.
Some five years later, outside the Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels. Fra
Melitone is distributing food to the poor. The beggars lament the absence of Padre
Rafaello, who can no longer serve them due to the severity of his penitence and his
troubled spirit, Carlo, who was left unconscious during the duel, appears and asks to speak
to Padre Rafaello. Summoned by the gatekeeper, Padre Rafaello turns out to be none other
than Alvaro. Carlo accuses Alvaro of cowardice and Alvaro is goaded it taking up arms
again. They choose as the sight of their duel the spot right in front of the cave where
Leonora is living in refuge. Carlo is mortally wounded in the duel. Seeking a confessor
for the dying man, Alvaro decides to turn to the mystery hermit. Leonora rings the bell to
obtain help from the monastery. She then recognises Alvaro and the identity of his
opponent, Leonora runs out to her dying brother, who stabs her when she tries to embrace
him. The monks running in answer the bell arrive to find Alvaro in the act of suicide,
cursing all humanity.