Jul 9, 2008

Ferrucio Furnaletto's Filippo II

Paris, Opéra Bastille
July 6, 2008
4-act Italian version (Milan 1884)

First of all, the conductor: Teodor Currentzis, 36, should have been more humble in the Ligne 8 (the Opéra de Paris magazine, pages scanned at the end of this post).

According to him, nobody strictly follows the score when conducting this opera, nobody except him that is. Like a true Lohengrin on his white swan, he intends to show us, the ignorant and uneducated audience, how Verdi's music really sounds like. Well, his conduction fell terribly flat in regard to that pretentious statement, and the naive Currentzis should understand no amount of grandiose gestures and sweat can overcome a mediocre view on the score. He was rewarded with some well-deserved booing at the end of the performance, and should really focus on the music instead of constantly moving like a crazy person.

Both Yvonne Naef (Eboli) and Tamar Iveri (Elisabetta) were not at ease; Naef missed almost all of the high notes and was not into character at all (not frivolous and naive enough, too dark and almost Wagnerian); Iveri was not audible unless she was singing alone and without too many instruments, but she redeemed herself in her last scene where she sang beautifully.

It's the second time I see Dmitri Hvrostovsky (Marchese di Posa) in a few months (last time was in April in the Met's Ballo in Maschera).
It's the second time I'm disappointed by him.
He also had vocal problems in Paris, not as numerous as in NY (which is almost impossible), but at the end of long sentences, his breath was so short he had that ugly sound of someone clearly out of options.
His stage presence was disappointing as well. His Posa was cold as ice, stiff as a board and emotionless. Not at all what you'd expect for this character. As a result, the exquisite duet between him and Don Carlo was a failure, all because of Hvrostovsky (who had his fan club in the auditorium on this Sunday afternoon, as some people clapped when he appeared on stage and was still silent at this time).

Stefano Secco as Don Carlo however was a very good surprise indeed. His singing was full of life and emotions, and his acting was quite convincing, especially his facial expressions.
He was really worthy of compliments and I never thought he would be so successful in this role.

Mikhail Petrenko (Il Grande Inquisitore, left, opposite James Morris as Filippo II on the picture above) was not very spectacular, nor was he awful. Average is the only word I can think of.

The real star of the cast for me was Ferrucio Furlanetto (Filippo II). His "Ella giammai m'ammo" was exquisite and the highlight of this performance, and overall his singing and stage presence were superb.
He is currently, I think, the best Filippo II in the world (Intermezzo may agree, Mostly Opera won't).

Photo Christian Leiber

Graham Vick's production from 1998 has a beautiful and powerful set that hasn't aged a bit, but suffers from a lack of originality in the costumes and is too static and too manichaean to fully explore the characters of Carlo and Filippo II (the autodafe scene - picture below- is the perfect example of it).

Numerous pictures of this run of Don Carlo by Agathe Poupeney can be seen there.

Further reading (all reviews are in French except for the original IHT review):

- Review of ForumOpera (June 16 performance)
- Review of ResMusica (June 16 performance)
- Review of ConcertClassic (June 26 performance)
- Review of Anaclase (July 4 performance)
- Review of the IHT from the original production in 1998


Anonymous said...

I was not there to see the performance so I cannot have a opinion about it. The reason I'm writing is about this riddle you have about opera. The first opera was composed in Florence by Giacopo Peri and Ottavio Rinuccini between 1594-1597 and was called "Dapne". Dido was the Queen of Tyr with this name and as Queen of Carthage she became "Elisa". That's all I wanted to say. I liked your site very much. Keep on writing

Extatic said...

It seems like this question of the first opera is really dear to many people, as a kind Norvegian reader also mentioned it in a previous post comment.

I must admit I know almost about operas prior to Gluck (how ignorant of me).

Anonymous said...

I was at this performance and agree with your review on the whole. It is a pity the conductor was not more supportive of the singers. Furlanetto and Secco were both great. I'm biased towards Hvorostovsky as I like his voice so would be kinder in my review, but agree his acting is hopelessly wooden.

Extatic said...

Nice of you to share.

The sad thing about Hvorostovsky is that I like his timbre very much. Unfortunately, it's not enough to be an amazing singer.