Ferruccio Furlanetto (bass) - Vienna State Opera Live Recordings
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Don Carlo (1884 version)
Restate!: Ella giammai m'amo [13.21]
Il Grand Inquisitor!: Giustizia, Sire!: Ah! Sia maladetta [19.30]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Boris Godunov (1869 version)
Boris's monologue: What is it?: Clock scene [21.39]
Death scene [12.09]
Chorus and Orchestra of Vienna State Opera/Michael Halász, Vjekoslav Šutej, Daniele Gatti, Tugan Sokhiev
rec. Vienna State Opera, 1997-2012
ORFEO C887141B [66.39]
The claims made by those listeners and critics who favour recordings taken from live performances over studio productions invariably revolve around the sense of dramatic involvement and continuity that derives from stage productions captured on disc. This is therefore a very odd compilation, featuring as it does individual scenes from four distinct performances taped over a fifteen year period at the Vienna State Opera and with only one singer, Ferruccio Furlanetto, in common between them. He features in two of his major roles, and the odd way in which these tracks have been assembled is emphasised by the extended pause inserted between Philip's aria in Don Carlo and the scene with the Grand Inquisitor which should immediately follow it.

Furlanetto in his extensive career has made a great many recordings, and his voice will be familiar to most opera collectors. He has a richness and evenness of tone throughout his extensive range, but his basically lyrical tone is heard at its best in lines that demand a broad melodic cantilena. There has sometimes been a suspicion of 'forcing' and even grittiness when he has undertaken more dramatic roles. His Philip here is not altogether free of these defects, ending with a resort to mere shouting at the end of track 5. His beautifully sustained delivery of the big aria is surely altogether too sympathetic for this tyrant who only just before the interval has been supervising the wholesale burning of his own subjects. The scene with the Grand Inquisitor opens almost jauntily, with the sinister trombones almost in a parody of waltz time. Both singers and orchestra display a sense of looseness both of rhythm and pitch. In the earlier recording of the Philip-Posa duet Carlos Álvarez's vibrato on sustained notes is picked up unmercifully by the microphone. There are a number of places on this disc where voices recede temporarily into the background.

The booklet quotes selections from three reviews of Fuirlanetto's stage performances of Boris Godunov on stage which remark on his perhaps surprising dramatic impact in the role. Certainly there is a good deal more involvement here, but also a good deal more shouting, and not only in the clock scene. There is plenty of precedent for this style of interpretation from Chaliapin onwards, and Mussorgsky himself marks several notated passages to be 'spoken'. Somehow however passages of histrionics which fit neatly into the Rimsky-Korsakov version of the score favoured by Chaliapin and Christoff (also a noted interpreter of the role of Philip) sound more obtrusive when heard in the context of Mussorgsky's original scoring.

The back of the box misleadingly states "English text enclosed" but in fact this statement refers only to the fact that the booklet notes are given in German, English and Italian. The interesting discussion in these notes on the relationship between the historic characters of Philip and their fictional representation on the operatic stage are not above a few historical inaccuracies of their own, as when we are informed Furlanetto "is the only non-Russian singer ever to have sung the role of Boris Godunov at the Mariinski Theatre in St Petersburg and the Bolshoi in Moscow." Not only have Robert Lloyd and George London respectively performed at these two venues, but their performances have been recorded to boot. Maybe the cause of historical accuracy would have been better served by the addition of the essential word "both".

A disc for fans of the singer, I would imagine; for others a case for occasional listening only. Neither category will presumably be disturbed by the lack of texts or translations.

Paul Corfield Godfrey

Performance details
Don Carlo
1. Restate!
2. Il Grand Inquisitor!
Boris Godunov
3. Boris's monologue
4. Death scene

Ferruccio Furlanetto (bass) - Philip12, Boris34; Carlos Álvarez1 and Bruno Caproni2 (baritones) - Posa; Eric Halfvarson (bass)2 - Grand Inquisitor; Benediky Kobel2 (tenor) - Lerma; Mariam Gauci2 (soprano) - Elisabeth; Dolora Zajick2 (mezzo) - Eboli; Michaela Selinger3 and Stephanie Houtzeel4 (mezzo) - Feodor; Jorma Salvasti3 (tenor) - Shuisky; Wolfram Igor Derntl3 (tenor) - Boyar
Chorus and Orchestra of Vienna State Opera/1Michael Halász, 2Vjekoslav Šutej, 3Daniele Gatti and Tugan Sokhiev (conductors)
rec. Vienna State Opera, 116 September 1997, 219 January 2001, 328 May 2007 and 420 April 2012

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