By Gianmarco Segato, Adult Programs Manager
It’s simply impossible for an opera company to present Massenet’s Don Quichotte without an artist who possesses the requisite gravitas, charisma and noble vocalism necessary to master the title role’s considerable musical and histrionic demands. In Ferruccio Furlanetto, who makes his greatly anticipated COC debut in the title role, the COC not only has the world’s leading Don Quichotte but a singer whose legendary 40-year career has established him as one of the greatest singing actors of his generation. His vocal pedigree is impeccable – his rich, velvety, espresso-hued timbre marks him as the natural successor to his idol, the great Italian bass, Cesare Siepi, one of the finest singers of the post-war period. As Furlanetto notes, “For me, [Siepi] had the most beautiful voice there has ever been, the most Latin, the most beautiful colour, so I wanted to follow the same path as him. He was an extraordinary Figaro, the best Giovanni, so I worked and worked in preparation for these roles.”
Furlanetto’s artistic lineage is also
strongly linked to past greats, including
the Bulgarian bass Boris Christoff, with
whom he worked as a young singer in
Verdi’s Don Carlo, taking the small role
of the Monk to his elder colleague’s
King Philip, the role now considered
by many to be Furlanetto's greatest.
His unconditional admiration for, and
direct experience with, his illustrious
predecessors – Christoff’s superb
technique, Siepi’s definitive Don
Giovanni and the seamless legato of
that other great Bulgarian bass, Nicolai
Ghiaurov – situate Furlanetto within a
continuum connecting past tradition
to contemporary performance practice.
He emerges as the towering, present-day
Italian exponent of the ever-evolving
art of great singing.
Perhaps a little surprisingly, Furlanetto’s
performing roots were in the Italian
rock scene of the 1960s when the British
Invasion was at its peak. He soon
migrated to the classical realm and
began formal vocal studies with Ettore
Campogalliani, the legendary northern
Italian voice teacher who also counted
Luciano Pavarotti, Mirella Freni and
Renata Scotto among his students. From
Campogalliani he learned to master
“economy of breath and interpretation
within a phrase – to do a phrase from
beginning to the very end without giving
the impression you are working and
then, in between, you have to paint with
the colours of your voice what you are
saying.” He also gained valuable lessons
on stage deportment: “I was stiff, and my
teacher said – free those hands, leave the
rest of your body completely relaxed!
This is extremely important when you
become a character on stage – the voice
is directed by the mind but you need
your body to inhabit a character and it
doesn’t help if you are stiff!”
Ferruccio Furlanetto in the San Diego Opera's 2009 production of Don Quichotte.
From these initial, relatively modest
acting tips, Furlanetto honed his
thespian skills to the degree that he
now privileges roles for which “there
is an important vocal component. To
inhabit a character like King Philip, Don
Quichotte or Boris Godunov, vocality
is fundamental but even more so is
the capability to be an acting singer.”
The Italian basso readily admits that,
currently, these are his three favourite
roles and if someone offered him “a
contract to do them for the rest of my
career, I’d sign it straightaway!” The
betrayed Philip and the dying Boris
and Don Quichotte are all acting
showcases. For Furlanetto, “to represent
on stage a dying character gives you
an infinite possibility of interpretations
of emotional involvement. And when it
comes to Boris and Don Quichotte, all
this is lifted to the nth degree.”
Of his favoured trio, Don Quichotte
is the role that gives him the highest
satisfaction. “Quichotte is eternally
compelling because he is what every
man should be, ideally, at least for
a few moments in his life: a man
full of humanity, love, tenderness
and appreciation for life. Musically,
everything about this role is very
touching and beautiful – it can reach
moments of absolute poetry. Whenever
and wherever I’ve sung Don Quichotte
you cannot imagine the results we've
had with audiences who receive it
with tremendous joy and satisfaction.”
Furlanetto stresses that roles like Philip,
Boris and Don Quichotte are “final
targets you have to interpret when
you have the maximum experience
both vocally and as an actor, where the
maturity of a singer is more important
than anything else. It is absolutely
fundamental to wait 10 years rather than
to do it too soon.” Accordingly, he didn’t
start learning Don Quichotte until
he was in his early 50s. “In this opera
you are constantly in contact with the
concept of death. You approach these
kinds of matters much better and in a
more interesting way when you are less
young – it’s something that goes together
with your experience of life, it’s as simple
as that. Roles like Don Quichotte, first
of all I do them for myself, for the joy
that I receive when I sing them, which
goes first to my own heart and then,
eventually, to the audience’s heart; this
is pure happiness.”
Photos: (top) Ferruccio Furlanetto. Photo by Igor Sakharov; (middle) Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Quichotte in the San Diego Opera's 2009 production of Don Quichotte. Photo by Cory Weaver.
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Don Quichotte / comments (0) / permalink
For Episode 24, the “Just what is opera worth to you?” edition, we welcome back Alia Rosenstock, Associate Artist Manager with Dean Artists Management; Jenna Douglas, a Toronto-based collaborative pianist and author of the increasingly-clicked-on opera blog, Schmopera and, COC Ensemble Studio baritone, Cameron McPhail. Also included in this podcast is a special report on San Diego Opera from arts journalist Catherine Kustanczy. Gianmarco Segato, the COC’s Adult Programs Manager, is your host.
Are you listening? Let us know your thoughts, opinions and suggestions by commenting here, or on Facebook, Twitter or by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
You can subscribe to The Big COC Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or in your favourite podcast player with our RSS feed (http://feeds.feedburner.com/bigCOCpodcast).
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in The Big COC Podcast / comments (0) / permalink
During our spring season, the Canadian Opera Company hosts an array of incredibly talented artists, both on stage and in the orchestra pit. And throughout May and June, you can also experience acclaimed mainstage singers, the Ensemble Studio's rising stars and COC Orchestra virtuosi in several Free Concert Series performances. You won't want to miss these final concerts that complete another spectacular season!
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Of Love and Longing
Allyson McHardy, Andrew Haji, Keith Hamm and Liz Upchurch
Canadian mezzo-soprano Allyson McHardy currently sings the role of Sara, Duchess of Nottingham, in the COC's production of Roberto Devereux. She teams up with pianist Liz Upchurch, tenor and COC Ensemble Studio member Andrew Haji and COC principal violist Keith Hamm in a poignant program of songs by Brahms, Britten and Canadian composer Robert Fleming.
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Journeys of the Soul
Russell Braun and Artists of the COC Orchestra
Internationally acclaimed baritone and COC favourite Russell Braun (the Duke of Nottingham in the COC's Roberto Devereux) is joined by pianist Carolyn Maule and artists of the COC Orchestra in Samuel Barber's profoundly moving Dover Beach and Fauré's La bonne chanson.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
War and Peace: Handel and Albinoni
Artists of the COC Orchestra and Ensemble Studio
Baroque aficionados won't want to miss this moving performance featuring some of the most exquisite chamber works and arias of the era. Performed by artists of the COC Orchestra and graduating Ensemble Studio soprano Sasha Djihanian, the program includes works by Handel and Albinoni.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Artists of the Ensemble Studio
It's a bittersweet day as we bid adieu to graduating artists of the COC Ensemble Studio: soprano Sasha Djihanian, baritone Cameron McPhail and pianist Michael Shannon. This musical farewell features their favourite art songs, including works by Debussy, Dvořák, Poulenc and Lee Hoiby.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Artists of the COC Orchestra
In a resounding finale to the 2013/2014 season, the brass section of the COC Orchestra, accompanied by COC Music Director Johannes Debus on piano, fills the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre with the glorious strains of antiphonal music by Giovanni Gabrieli, and fanfares by Benjamin Britten and Paul Dukas. It also features rarely-heard chamber gems by Paul Hindemith, Francis Poulenc, Morten Lauridsen and COC principal tuba Scott Irvine, showcasing the magnificent sonic richness of brass instruments in various combinations.
Let us know which concerts you're most looking forward to in the comments or on our Facebook page!
Photos (top to bottom): Artists of the COC Orchestra. Photo: Chris Hutcheson; Allyson McHardy. Photo: Bohuang.ca; (l-r) Sasha Djihanian, Cameron McPhail and Michael Shannon.
Posted by Kristin McKinnon / in Free Concert Series / comments (0) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001