March 06, 2019
Don Quichotte Wins All Hearts at Lyric
The weather outside was frightful, but the sun-dappled and starlit scenes onstage were delightful as Lyric’s heartwarming presentation of Don Quichotte opened November 19. Here’s a small sampling of the rave reviews:
“Highly Recommended — Lyric’s Don Quichotte puts a French twist on Spanish classic,” declares the Chicago Sun-Times. The review calls the production “altogether enchanting, alternately heart-wrenching and comical….above all it is about the nature of ‘l’amour’ — whether between men and women, or between man and God, or simply the nature of fraternity (brotherly love) embodied in the ever-amusing yet profoundly poignant relationship between Quichotte, the aging, deluded, high-minded Spanish knight, and Sancho, his earthy young ‘squire,’ who is deeply rooted in life’s more ordinary pleasures.
“Massenet’s score is exquisite, and is being exquisitely played by the Lyric orchestra, whose masterful conductor, Sir Andrew Davis, might well be the hardest working man in any opera house. And this ideally cast production features luminous performances by Ferruccio Furlanetto as Quichotte, Nicola Alaimo as Sancho, and Clémentine Margaine as Quichotte’s idealized lady love, Dulcinée,” adding that Furlanetto “captures his character’s gentle, deluded but fiercely determined spirit with such truthfulness and vocal warmth that you never doubt him for a moment.” The Sun-Times also notes that the production is “gracefully directed by Matthew Ozawa.”
The Chicago Tribune awards 3.5 stars to Don Quichotte, dubbing it “another Gallic hit for Lyric Opera” and lauding “its undeniable charms,” especially “the rich vocal and dramatic opportunities of the title role.” The Tribune praises the “admirable performance” of Ferruccio Furlanetto as the “nobly deluded knight errant….[the Italian bass] was fully inside a role he considers his personal favorite….even when lost in the old dreamer's addled musings, Furlanetto made you care….The singer was amusing in the don's wooing of Dulcinée, eloquent in his speech persuading the bandits to surrender her stolen necklace, deeply sympathetic after she rejects him. His death scene was affectingly handled: Beneath a starry canopy, the dying knight errant bequeathed his faithful servant all he had left in the world: an island of dreams.”
French mezzo-soprano Clémentine Margaine’s “rich, dusky mezzo was touched with sensuous melancholy as Dulcinée lamented the fleeting nature of love….A worthy addition to the Lyric roster,” according to the Tribune. “The traditional production adhered to an old-fashioned kind of romantic realism, with colorful storybook Spanish sets and vistas by Ralph Funicello, and pretty period costumes by Missy West.”
Chicago on the Aisle awards Don Quichotte four stars for serving up “pure operatic comfort food” and notes “the mood emanating from the stage was robust, relaxed and positively joyful….[Furlanetto] is a fine musician with a flexible and splendid voice, but his ability to inhabit this character completely is what sets him apart.”
Chicago Classical Review calls Don Quichotte “an unqualified success, a comedy with an emotional impact that touches the heart,” describing Furlanetto’s performance as “moving and magnificent.” On the podium, “Lyric’s music director led a vivacious and warm-hearted account of this score, bringing brash vitality to the Spanish episodes, burnished glow to Massenet’s sad-sweet lyrical flights and a touching delicacy to the final scene.”
It’s an opera that will have you leaving Lyric with tears in your eyes and a smile on your lips. What could be better than that?