Now he's added a Russian role to his arsenal, one of the relatively few real star turns for a bass — the title role in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. In fact, he is the first Italian to have sung the part at St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater, where the opera premiered in 1869.
Furlanetto has just given his first U.S. performances as the murderous tsar at San Diego Opera, completing a four-performance run — from which we offer photos below — yesterday afternoon. And he had, as Chris Pasles of The Los Angeles Times put it, "a resounding success."
"His Boris was strongly detailed," wrote Pasles, "youthfully powerful, persuasive in the warmth of the family scenes as well as in his imperial authority and in the progression of a guilt-ridden conscience that leads to death."
Other reviews were equally positive, with Furlanetto, the supporting cast, the company's chorus and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra all receiving a share of the praise, as did the staging by former San Francisco Opera general director Lotfi Mansouri.
It's worth noting that the version of Boris presented was Mussorgsky's relatively rarely performed 1869 original. As Valerie Scher put it in the San Diego Union-Tribune, "This is the essential Boris, the one that came before Mussorgsky revised and expanded it and composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov glitzed it up for public consumption. Whatever the original lacks — romance, for one thing; a major female lead, for another — it compensates with dramatically concise storytelling (in seven vignette-like scenes) and an almost primal musical impact."
"The first version has been criticized for its monochromatic color and ostensibly for certain musical ineptness," observed Pasles. "But there was no justification for that here. Under the loving and sympathetic conducting of Val_ry Ryvkin, a native of St. Petersburg now artistic director of Opera Santa Barbara, the work took on almost a chamber opera quality, an opera rightfully dominated by singers, not the orchestra."
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All photos by Ken Howard.