Thursday, May 10, 2018

Brilliantly sung but the tale of Don Quichotte mostly lumbers in Melbourne's Opera Australia production: Herald Sun Review

Published online at Herald Sun 7th May and in print 10th May, 2018.

Massenet’s loosely adapted interpretation of Cervantes’ sprawling epic, Don Quixote, is no standard repertoire work. Not only has the choice of bringing San Diego Opera’s 2009 production served Opera Australia’s purpose adequately in mounting it for first time, but wisely importing acclaimed Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto with it to infuse driver-seat authority as the eponymous knight-errant proved highly worthy.

Scene from Act I, Opera Don Quichotte, Opera Australia
To a libretto based on a play by Jacques Le Lorrain, the story centres on Don Quichotte’s heroic deed to retrieve village beauty Dulcinea’s stolen necklace — he blindly convinced she loves him — and win her in marriage.

On show was Furlanetto’s outstanding nutrient-rich vocal earthiness and authentic portrayal of an ageing man’s adventure, clad in tarnished armour and mocked while trumpeting chivalric virtue. For this, Furlanetto conveyed the pathos and oft-ambiguous delineation between the delusional and Christlike with touching sensibility.

At his side, the impressive trusty expertise of baritone Warwick Fyfe complimented Furlanetto brilliantly as the comically endearing Sancho. You get the sense that Sancho‘s music is the more stirring and Fyfe gave it immense idiosyncratic weight the further the piteousness of Don Quichotte’s dying end neared.

Mellifluous mezzosoprano Sian Pendry wafted through Dulcinea’s early flippant, later nonchalance then regretful tenderness with assured step. Her four fawning suitors add little to the plot though fervent tenor John Longmuir stood out as the valorous Juan.

Ferruccio Furlanetto as Don Quichotte and Warwick Fyfe as Sancho
But once the burst of music and exuberantly choreographed Act 1 celebratory Spanish dance was done, the puff momentarily ran out. Even the theatrical stunner created for Act 2’s dreamy windmill scene lumbered in dramatic purpose.

More the fault of the narrative’s lack of dramatic thickening than revival director John Sheedy’s period-sympathetic approach, not until the final two acts of its rather short five do the characters galvanise with each other convincingly to match Massenet’s tremendously beautiful music, divinely crafted in rich sound-colour by conductor Guillaume Tourniaire, Orchestra Victoria kept superb form, serving its various solo highlights hypnotically.

Ralph Funicello’s handsome set, Missy West’s rustic costumes and Marie Barrett’s evocative lighting are effective enough but to sit back and melt into the music alongside Furlanetto and Fyfe’s affecting connection are the few glorious comforts worth a ticket.

Don Quichotte
Opera Australia
State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Until 12th May, 2018


Production Photos: Jeff Busby

No comments:

Post a Comment