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San Diego Opera: Ferruccio Furlanetto recital

The luxurious ache of great singing

Ferruccio Furlanetto.
  • Ferruccio Furlanetto.

Ferruccio Furlanetto gave his U.S. recital debut on Saturday night at Symphony Hall as part of the San Diego Opera 2015-'16 season. If you’ll recall, the last recital I was able to see at San Diego Opera, René Barbera, went quite well.

This evening could not have been more different yet was equally as moving. At the René Barbera recital we had a rising singer just starting out as a lyric tenor and accompanied by piano.

Furlanetto is 30+ years into an international opera career and now sings the dramatic bass repertoire. His recital was accompanied by the San Diego Symphony.

Ferruccio Furlanetto Sings Don Quichotte

...in Massenet's opera. Sancho, Andrey Serov. Mariinsky Theater orchestra and chorus. Conductor, Valery Gergiev

...in Massenet's opera. Sancho, Andrey Serov. Mariinsky Theater orchestra and chorus. Conductor, Valery Gergiev

Speaking of the symphony, conducted by Maestro Emanuele Andrizzi, they started the evening with Verdi’s overture to Nabucco. The overture begins with a brass chorale and I need to point out that the trumpets sounded beautiful. The trumpet tends to be an instrument of destruction. They're the tip of the spear, the bloody edge of the orchestral knife.

In this instance the section blunted the edge of the sound creating a sonority that was regal. Instead of shining forth, the tone glowed. The power of this subtle elegance would define the evening.

There wasn’t one cliché rule of recital that Furlanetto didn’t break. He touched his face, he slouched and even bent over. He sang with his arms crossed. He did all those things that a singer is taught not to do. Yet these faux pas added to the performance because he was being a human being.

Victorian posture and minding one’s manners onstage is boring, stiff, and inhumane. Furlanetto always presented a living, breathing person. His mannerisms made the audience love him even more because he wasn’t pretending to be something — he just was.

The acting ability of Furlanetto is almost ideal for opera. He uses big sweeping gestures but they always feel natural and they are always effective. One patron remarked that Furlanetto can make you feel as though he has died even though he’s standing right in front of us.

The repertoire for the evening consisted of Italian, Russian, and French. However, there were three pieces from American musical theater that fulfilled a personal dream I’ve had for a few years now.

I've been wanting to hear a world-class singer perform music from a show such as South Pacific with an orchestra and no microphone. Guess what? Old Man River, Some Enchanted Evening, and This Nearly was Mine closed the first half of the recital.

This Nearly was Mine was everything I hoped it would be. The luxurious subdued ache of Furlanetto’s voice in the final verse, “Now, now I’m alone, still dreaming of paradise,” contained the entire character of Emile de Becque in a single phrase.

Some in the audience had a special connection to the death scene from Don Quixote which was on the program. Members of the SDO family blinked away tears as they recalled the significance of this piece.

There was a point when many thought that particular music would be the last to be performed by SDO as it concluded the 2014 season after the attempted shutdown. Hearing Furlanetto reprise his performance of the death scene two seasons later stirred the emotions of those who fought for the company’s survival.

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