Opera in five acts in French
with English Super-titles.
Music by Jules Massenet.
Libretto by Henri Cain.
Stage Director: Matthew Ozawa.
Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis.
At the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Sweet yet poignant take on Cervantes’ classic is a wonderful opera.
Jules Massenet’s (1842-1912) Don Quichotte is “comédie-héroïque” with sweepingly lush score composed in 1909-10 while the composer was ill and after he has a failed opera (Bacchus). Don Quichotte features a lighter take on the idealistic, delusional knight and his squire Sancho than the 1964 Broadway musical Man of La Mancha. Both are excellent takes on Cervantes’ classic.
In Massenet’s opera the role of Don Quichotte has mostly been a ‘star-making’ role for a bass. In this production, Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto returns to the Lyric in his favorite signature role as Don Quichotte. His remarkable performance contains all the humor, sincerity and pathos of the the delusional knight. Furlanetto’ fine acting coupled with his sharp articular bass voice renders his Don Quichotte a most sympathetic character. He gets help and companionship from his friend and squire Sancho (the Italian baritone Niccola Alaimo). The two’s fraternity is strong as they wonder throughout Spain in Quichotte’s noble quests.
In this light, often comic, opera, we meet Dulcinee (the French mezzo-soprano Clementine Margaine), the local town beauty who seems to be missing love. The town’s folk love her and when the delusional old knight arrives they gently poke fun at him for his wacky ways. Quichotte serenades the beauty. Dulcinee tells him that if he really loves her, he’ll get her necklace back that bandits stole from her.
Sancho accomplishes the knight into the countryside in search of the bandits. Quichotte believes that several windmills are in fact giants who must be attacked. Sancho saves his master who becomes entangled in the windmills.
Eventually they meet the bandits. Sancho runs away as the band captures Don Quichotte. Before they can kill him, his final prayer deeply moves them as he expresses his love for mankind and nature and his devotion to duty and the code of the knights. When he asks for the necklace, the bandits are so moved by his honesty and good heart that they gladly yield it.
In Act Four, we hear Dulcinee debate the merits of love as she turns away her suitors. When Quichotte arrives with her necklace, Dulcinee dismisses him as she craves her independence as her honesty speaks to her love for the old knight but nothing more. Sancho consoles Quichotte.
Act Five finds Sancho praying over the sleeping hoping that his master will find happiness and fulfillment of his dreams. An awaken Quichotte , knowing he was about to die, tells Sancho he deserves all his dreams. Quichotte hears Dulcinee’s voice singing in the background as he takes his last breathe leaving Sancho to mourn.
This opera is a showcase for Ferruccio Furlanetto who is splendid as Quichotte. With Niccola Alaimo and for Clementine Margaine doing yeoman work while the lyric chorus was terrific. Don Quichotte is a sympathetic tale of a noble man whose gentleness, honesty and humanity makes him a true idealist. It is also a tale of fraternity. The music is lush, romantic and stunning. Join Quichotte on his adventures at the Lyric.
Date Reviewed: November 23, 2016.
For more info checkout the Don Quichotte page at theatreinchicago.com.
At the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, Chicago, IL, Tickets: $49-$349 (adults); $20-$50 (children),
Info: (312) 827-5600; www.lyricopera.org, Run time: 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission, through December 7, 2016.