Unending civil war on the fringe of Europe, a corrupt church and a refugee crisis. It doesn’t take much to bring The Force of Destiny up to date and Calixto Bieito didn’t even need to try in his new production for English National Opera. The feud of the Calatravas finds a natural if unsettling home decked in the gloomy halls of a Nationalist-supporting family during the Spanish Civil War.
Franco himself makes no appearance, but Picasso’s Guernica casts a baleful shadow over the stage of the Coliseum. The composer’s virulent anti-clericism would seem to be shared by the Basque director, to judge from the savage parodies of ecclesiastical authorities in previous productions. Here it felt natural, germane to the piece, albeit shedding a murky light on what are usually seen as the beneficent actions of Father Guardiano as he offers protection to Leonora. Redemption imagery made clear that she was no more welcome now than a female Christ would have been at any other time in church history.
You can read the rest of my ★★★★★ review for the Amati magazine here.