Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto sings one of his signature roles for Melbourne
The image of Cervantes’ mad knight, Don Quixote, is one of the most enduring in western literature, and has inspired musicians, artists and writers for several centuries, ranging from 17th century plays to countless paintings and the popular 1965 musical Man of La Mancha.
Opera Australia is staging Massenet’s 1910 version, with a libretto by Henri Caïn based on a 1904 play. Massenet is more inspired by the image and tragi-comic character of Quixote rather than his many quests, and uses just a few ideas from Cervantes’ writing in this languid piece.
At the centre of the opera is Quixote’s quest to retrieve the beautiful Dulcinea’s stolen necklace from a gang of thieves. Quixote believes that if he can complete this act of chivalry, he will win her heart and hand in marriage. It’s the least of his delusions, but proves to be a particularly costly one.
Really, there are two main reasons you’d book tickets to this production: to hear a relatively rarely performed score and see Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto in action.
Opera Australia has brought in the sets and costumes from a 2009 San Diego Opera production, with revival director Hugh Halliday remounting the opera for local audiences.