Verdi: Forza del Destino

Guiseppe Verdi was born in Leroncole in Italy on October 9th, 1813 and died in Milan, Italy on January 27th, 1901. He completed La Forza del Destino in 1861. The Overture runs for approximately 8 minutes and is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp and orchestral strings.

This was a tragic opera commissioned by the Russian imperial theatre.  At the premiere in St. Petersburg in 1862, an orchestral prelude preceded the opera. The overture you hear today was written for the revival in Milan in 1869. It consists of the main melodies from the opera.

The Overture opens with a motive called the “Fate” or “Destiny” motive, played by the brass and consisting of three E’s played in a row. “The Destiny motive” recurs throughout the Overture. After playing this twice, the strings have a sombre four-note scale melody associated with the hero’s lover, Leonora. This is followed by a duet between the hero and his brother before they embark on a duel. After this is a preview of an aria sung by the heroine. Verdi revised the ending the second time to make it happier so, instead of the hero committing suicide in his grief, the two main characters are reunited. As she dies, Leonora tells her lover that God will forgive him, there will be no more war, and love and hope will preside over all.

The music from this overture has since been used in Claude Berri’s 1980 classics Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring.