BWW Interviews: Ferruccio Furlanetto Filters Emotion, Touches Hearts
Notwithstanding the pall of despondency hovering over San Diego Opera, to be in the presence of Ferruccio Furlanetto's greatness for one amazing hour while he imparted his wisdom was an overwhelming experience. In spite of, or perhaps because of, his greatness, he remains utterly modest and unprepossessing. And, as always, a true gentleman.
EM: We're ecstatic as always at your return to San Diego Opera, Maestro. Congratulations on your fortieth anniversary on the stage. And thank you so much for your astonishing performance in Verdi's Requiem. I was honored to be able to hear it.
FF: Ah, good.
EM: It was such a privilege.
FF: And it was a very special state of mind in general that night, because it just happened, this... strange mess. And it would have been the last thing to do, I would say, a Requiem for an opera theater, but we did and it was beautiful. I was very glad to be in that.
EM: Yes, it was special on so many different levels.
FF: It's such an amazing, magnificent piece that is absolutely a privilege every time you have the chance to perform it. To be in it, to filter it. It's great.
EM: In our interview last season http://www.operapulse.com/opera-news/2013/04/03/ferruccio-furlanetto-bass-recounts-his-favorite-roles/ you had mentioned a very special Verdi Requiem you did with Guilini, and the emotions you experienced.
FF: That was by far the best case. Because this man was really filtering this incredible masterpiece. You know, our duty is really that, to filter with our own emotion, with our own sensibility, this amazing masterpiece, and to be the filter between the composer... And Giulini - you could tell the pain was his pain, and it was so magnificent. I will never forget. And I did many others, beautiful ones I will never forget also. The one on January 28, 2001, for the hundred years of Verdi, in the San Marco church in Milano, where it happened for the first time for the funeral of Manzoni, conducted by Verdi himself. That day was Muti and full, full, full church. I remember that Muti at the beginning asked the audience to listen, to have it in their hearts, and at the end consider the circumstance and why the event was taking place, just to leave the theater without applauding. It was so touching, because you could understand that everyone was really "washed" inside. But it is magnificent music.
EM: Yet this time for you, to perform it on the fortieth anniversary of your first appearance on stage, that must have been a different set of emotions.
FF: Everything was ideal, because the day before, the day of the generale, it was the day of my first step on stage forty years before, and to be singing the Verdi Requiem, and to be in San Diego, which is without any doubt one of my few dearest places in the world, it was magic. Everything was so beautiful. It was only spoiled by this terrible news.
EM: Once you started singing, though, was that awful news hanging over the whole time?
FF: When you start to sing you immediately get into the piece and of course if you have any special reason to sing it, that's even better. I'll never forget another one I did in '94. I was in Japan with Seiji Ozawa, we were doing a series of them, Requiems, and the last one was the day of the TV. And on that very day my grandmother died. And there was something special, because Ozawa said that night it was something amazing. And of course if you have a very special reason to which to dedicate this music... on that night something amazing happened, because maybe a month after I received a letter from Japan from a young woman, say early 40s, and she told me, "In those days my husband died of cancer, I was destroyed, absolutely desperate. I was even considering suicide. And that night I heard this Verdi Requiem on the TV and I understood there was reason to live." And I still have this little letter, inside a beautiful precious manuscript of Don Giovanni, because this was a most amazing proof you have touched the heart of somebody. This is where everybody in the profession should target, to reach hearts. And this was proof that I did it that night. And somehow, I don't know if I saved a life or not, but nevertheless this woman understood that there was a reason to continue. I was in tears when I read it. I was devastated. Beautifully devastated.
EM: That's the power of music, and what we, as performers, aspire to, to reach people with that power. When two events like that coincide, it becomes magical.
FF: That happens both in stage operas or in recitals or in a concert like that, without staging. But just the fact that we are filtering emotions and transferring them to an audience. This is the greatest privilege.
EM: Yes, it is. Then to follow the Requiem with Don Quichotte, which you mentioned, last time we spoke as possibly the role you love most of all...
FF: Probably it is... I just did it the 26th of January in Moscow, because the production we did one year before, in Mariinsky with Gergiev, was awarded the biggest prize in Russia. So for the final event we were invited to perform the production at the Bolshoi. And it has been sensational to be in this amazing theatre, of course, but also even more because it was the second performance in ninety-nine years. The first performance was in 1915 done by Chaliapin for whom the piece was written by Massenet, and the audience went wild. It was magnificent to repurpose it in a beautiful production, this stunning piece. There's a lot of criticism about Massenet about Don Quichotte, because they find that these kind of operas are a bit light. I cannot agree on that at all. The character of Quichotte is so special, so unique. He's exactly what men should be for three hours in their life: love. Love for everything that's around us, whether it's nature, sky, air, other persons, animals. And when it comes to the end, for instance, the death of Quichotte is so touching, so involving emotionally. I would say it's on the same level or maybe even deeper than the death of Boris, for a very simple reason, because both are death of a real person. Boris is one of the greatest Tsars Russia had, and you have in this opera his real life, and Don Quichotte is the purity that every man can have. It's just a matter of will.