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The rock of anguish

Ferruccio Furlanetto, the Prince of Basses, takes on three roles

Michael Church | September/October 2013

They call him the Prince of Basses, and it fits. When Ferruccio Furlanetto is on stage, the chaste beauty of his sound seems to pervade the auditorium even when he’s silent, so compellingeven frighteningis his presence. Fans cross oceans to catch his performances: his speciality lies in tormented, self-doubting monarchs, notably Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, a role he sings this winter in Vienna. Once a formidable Don Giovanni, this elegant Italian gladly accepts that his Mozart days are over. At 64, he says, happiness is singing the anguish of Verdi’s Philip II, or Tsar Boris’s tearful farewell to his subjects.

A passion for golf is almost the only extracurricular detail we have about this very private man. As a teenager he had his own pop group, the timbre of his voice propelling him towards the Tom Jones repertoire, but "to a country boy the pop world seemed rotten". He gravitated to opera, where, after a busy apprenticeship in Italy’s provincial opera houses, he was spotted by von Karajan and turned into a star overnight. Now productions are built around him, and you couldn’t wish for a firmer rock. 
~ Michael Church

Simon Boccanegra Sept 27th, Don Carlo Oct 13th, Boris Godunov Jan 23rd, all at the Vienna Staatsoper

CLASSICAL AT A GLANCE

De la maison des morts (Opéra National du Rhin, Strasbourg, Sept 27th). Robert Carsen directs a new production of Janacek’s final opera, based on Dostoyevsky’s dark novel about life under the tsars.

Eugene Onegin (Met, New York, Sept 23rd). Deborah Warner’s aggressively lavish production of Tchaikovsky’s opera may work better at the Met. With Anna Netrebko.

The Wasp Factory (Royal Opera, London, Oct 2nd). New opera by Ben Frost and David Pountney, based on the cult novel by the late Iain Banks.

Madam Butterfly (ENO, London, Oct 14th). Each revival of the late Anthony Minghella’s production reinforces its claim to classic status. ~ MC

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