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Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà - a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights - is a walking compendium of emotions. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.



Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Quixote and American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves is Dulcinea. [Photo © Cory Weaver]
22 Feb 2009

Massenet's Don Quichotte at San Diego Opera

Ferrucio Furlanetto apparently loves the temperate climes of San Diego in California's equivalent of late winter.

Jules Massenet: Don Quichotte

Ferruccio Furlanetto: Don Quixote; Eduardo Chama: Sancho Panza; Denyce Graves: Dulcinea; Bryan Register: Juan. San Diego Opera. Karen Keltner, conductor. Ian Campbell, director.

Above: Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Quixote and American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves is Dulcinea. [Photo © Cory Weaver]


In recent years he has brought to the San Diego Civic Center his celebrated King Phillip (Don Carlo) and Boris Godunov. His appearance this season in Massenet’s little-seen late opera Don Quichotte, however, may be the performance that cements his reputation as an artist cherished by San Diego’s opera-loving community forever. His triumph on opening night overcame any niggles — some surely deserved — about the ultimate merit of Massenet’s Cervantes adaptation.

Even with an intermission, the performance ran just two hours and twenty minutes, evidence of the crude reduction the libretto (by Henri Cain) makes of the literary masterpiece. Act one starts with a dance, then Dulcinea warbles a pleasant aria somewhat similar to Carmen’s first number. Eventually Don Quichotte appears, only to be derided by the townspeople, and Dulcinea sends him off on a seemingly hopeless mission, to recover a stolen necklace. Act two basically consists of the encounter with the windmill, and in act three the robbers capture the Don and are about to execute him when his pathetic nature moves their larcenous hearts of gold, and they not only release him, but give him his beloved’s necklace. In act four he returns it in triumph, and Dulcinea, while grateful, has to gently let him know that she can never match his idealized picture of her. So in act five, he dies.

Ian Campbell directed this new production, with scenic design by Ralph Funicello and costumes by Missy West. Each act required curtain drops for set changes. A production with a more creative approach that eliminated the pauses between acts might not even need an intermission. San Diego Opera audiences have been known to reward traditional sets they enjoy with waves of applause, but Funicello’s designs, rather like slightly classier versions of those that might be constructed by an elite high school’s drama department, didn’t elicit much if any on opening night. The choice to have the Don and Sancho Panza wheeled on atop a horse and mule, respectively, that appeared to have been stolen from a carousel could have been a sly wink at the cartoonish goings-on; your reviewer suspects it’s all a part of the compromises imposed in trying to present naturalistic stagings of an art form that at its heart is not about naturalism. The tree the robbers tie the Don too, for example, probably wouldn’t have such wobbling branches in a film version.

Nonetheless, the artists behind the evening deserve credit, for their efforts threw into relief the greatness of Furlanetto’s performance. The singer is in fantastic shape, and physically embodied the role. More importantly, he caught the foolishness and the grandeur, the pathos and the pride. His voice, secure and full, conveyed all the romantic longing and aspirational passion of the man. And Don Quichotte, it turns out, is one of Massenet’s most melodic operas, with fine tune after tune. Surely with a more substantive libretto, the work would be produced with greater frequency.

_MG_0698.pngArgentinean bass-baritone Eduardo Chama as Sancho Panza and Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Quixote [Photo © Cory Weaver]

Denyce Graves retains the personality and stage presence on which she has built her career, but any number of other mezzos could have sung a more alluring, distinctive Dulcinea. Eduardo Chama’s Sancho Panza, on the other hand, stood his ground next to Furlanetto’s Don, capturing both the devotion and subservience of his character, and helping to make the anti-climatic final scene as effective as it could be.

The excellent conductor Karen Keltner emphasized dancing rhythms and singing string tones. A company like Naxos would do well to bring these artists together — with a different Dulcinea — for a recording.

Perhaps only an adequate opera, then, but such is Furlanetto’s success that Don Quichotte seems a masterwork. Anyone who can make the final performances of this short run should make every effort to get a ticket.

Chris Mullins

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