Popular Unpopularity: Massenet’s Don Quichotte in Madrid

SpainSpain Jules Massenet, Don Quichotte: Soloists, Madrid Symphony Orchestra, Intermezzo Choir, Marc Piollet (conductor), Teatro Real de Madrid, 19.12.2011 (JMI)

Concert Version

Don Quichotte: Ferruccio Furlanetto
Dulcinée: Anna Caterina Antonacci
Sancho Panza: Eduardo Chama
Pedro: Elena Copons
Garcías: Anna Tobella
Rodríguez: Pablo Martínez Reyes
Juan: Roger Padullés

Photo courtesy Teatro Real, © Javier del Real

The two most important fictional characters that Spain has given to the world of opera are Don Juan and Don Quixote. Cervantes’ character alone has some 80 operas written about, although they seem to fight against the windmills of waning popularity—a fact that becomes obvious when you consider that the rarely performed Jules Massenet opera (“Don Quichotte”) is already one of the more important ones. Massenet, although including that famous windmill scene, hardly recreates Cervantes’ novel; instead he centers the opera around Dulcinée.

This concert-performance was led by the current musical director of Wiesbaden Opera, Marc Piollet who appealed through his very careful reading of the score and affectionate conducting. Despite occasions of excess of volume (endemic nowadays), it was a good performance from the orchestra and chorus.

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J.Massenet, Don Quichotte,
M.Plasson / Toulouse Opera C & O / T.Berganza, J.Van Dam, A.Fondary

Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto gave life to Don Quichotte, a role he has added to his repertoire in recent years. Mr. Furlanetto was very comfortable with the character and created an outstanding interpretation of it, especially in the particularly moving final scene. His voice is large, if not exactly to my taste. But even though I have never liked his timbre, that hardly precludes me from recognizing him as the very good singer he certainly is.

Anna Caterina Antonacci is one of those rare artists whose presence has a special magnetism. Her Dulcinée was more than remarkable, with an exemplary, rarified diction and outstanding expressiveness. She also seemed very comfortable with her character and it made me regret that we couldn’t see her in a staged performance. Bass-baritone Eduardo Chama is very familiar with the character of Sancho Panza, which, after singing it in many theaters over the last years, knows the character inside out.

José M. Irurzun