Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Peter Sellars' kinaesthetic vision of Lasso's Lagrime di San Pietro

On 24th May 1594 just a few weeks before his death on 14 June, the elderly Orlando di Lasso signed the dedication of his Lagrime di San Pietro - an expansive cycle of seven-voice penitential madrigale spirituali, setting vernacular poetry on the theme of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ - to Pope Clement VIII.

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Donnerstag aus Licht

Stockhausen was one of the most visionary of composers, and no more so than in his Licht operas, but what you see can often get in the way of what you hear. I’ve often found fully staged productions of his operas a distraction to the major revelation in them - notably the sonorities he explores, of the blossoming, almost magical acoustical chrysalis, between voices and instruments.

David McVicar's Andrea Chénier returns to Covent Garden

Is Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chenier a verismo opera? Certainly, he is often grouped with Mascagni, Cilea, Leoncavallo and Puccini as a representative of this ‘school’. And, the composer described his 1876 opera as a dramma de ambiente storico.

Glyndebourne presents Richard Jones's new staging of La damnation de Faust

Oratorio? Opera? Cantata? A debate about the genre to which Berlioz’s ‘dramatic legend’, La damnation de Faust, should be assigned could never be ‘resolved’.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

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

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):