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Ferruccio Furlanetto [Photo by Igor Sakharov]
18 Mar 2016

Ferruccio Furlanetto at San Diego

On March 5, 2016, San Diego Opera presented it’s star bass, Ferruccio Furlanetto, in a concert of arias with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra at the orchestra’s home, Copley Symphony Hall.

Ferruccio Furlanetto at San Diego

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Ferruccio Furlanetto [Photo by Igor Sakharov]


For this event Emanuele Andrizzi, who heads the Orchestra Program at Roosevelt University conducted. He opened the program with a rousing version of the overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco in which he alternated fast and slow tempi.

Furlanetto opened with Don Basilio’s comic aria from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, “La calunia” (“Slander is a gentle wind”), which he delivered with his usual artistic characterization and resonant tones. He followed it with an amusing version of Leporello’s Catalogue Aria from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and a virtuosic rendition of the Don’s “Finch’ an del vino” (“While their heads are still hot from the wine”). As the servant he had rustic manners; as the master, the attitude of nobility. Here was an artist who could create a complete character with body language and vocal acting. One of Furlanetto’s most memorable parts at San Diego Opera was the title role in Massenet’s Don Quichotte. Again, with no props, his superb impersonation of Cervantes’ Knight came alive across the footlights and took our hearts along as his spirit ascended to the stars.

It’s no longer a surprise when major artists include older Musical Theater songs on concert programs. Usually they are at the end of the evening, however. Furlanetto put them in the first half of his program shortly before the intermission. He included “Ol’ Man River” from Jerome Kern’s Show Boat along with “Some Enchanted Evening” and “This Nearly Was Mine” from Richard Rogers’ South Pacific. His “Ol’ Man River” was more lyrical than most, his “Some Enchanted Evening” was an absolute charmer and “This Nearly Was Mine” pulled at the heartstrings. Since these two works are currently seen at opera houses and not on Broadway, placing selections from them among arias has begun to make sense.

After the Intermission Maestro Andrizzi gave a lyrical interpretation of Modest Mussorgski’s Introduction and Polonaise from Boris Godunov. Again convincing the audience of his characterization, Furlanetto sang the powerful Death of Boris with vividly colored resounding tones that culminated in a moving pianissimo. The next aria, “I am he whom you called” from Russian composer Anton Rubenstein’s The Demon was far less familiar then anything that preceded it. The opera is based on a poem by Mikhail Lermontov and in 1875 the Mariinsky Theatre of St. Petersburg premiered it with Feodor Chaliapin. The aria did not have a striking melody, but it allowed Furlanetto to once more create an interesting character.

Again assuming the role of the devil, Furlanetto sang Mephistopheles’ serenade: “Vous qui faites l’endormie” (“You who pretend to sleep”) from Gounod’s Faust. A polished, urbane denizen of Hell, he created sarcasm with innuendo and magnificent vocal colors.

At this point, Maestro Andrizzi really came into his best material when he led the Intermezzo from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. That was a tearjerker, and so was the sad aria that followed: “Ella giammai m’amo” (She never loved me) from Verdi’s Don Carlo. As King Philip, Furlanetto varied the use of his expressive voice. Sometimes he emitted powerful ringing tones but as the end, when he sings that his young wife never loved him, he spun the finest of sad pianissimos.

The applause for this concert was long and loud. Only when the bass signaled that he would sing an encore did it cease. He announced the words: “Mentre gonfiarsi l'anima parea” and most of the audience did not recognize the title. It was the first line of Attila’s aria from Verdi’s ninth opera, Attila, which was first seen in 1846. Translation: (As my soul seemed to swell). Needless to say the applause of the San Diego audience again swelled when he finished. It was a fabulous concert that served to underline the vibrant life of both opera and symphony in San Diego.

Maria Nockin

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