Italian bass Ferruccio "Ace of Bass" Furlanetto is no stranger to San Diego Opera. He made his Company debut in 1985 as Oberto has sung often with the Company since then including the title roles of Don Giovanni, Boris Godunov, Don Quixote as well as King Philip in Don Carlo. In March, Ferruicco brings a new role to us, that of archbishop Thomas Becket in Ildebrando Pizzett's Murder in the Cathedral.
Ferruccio took a break between rounds at St. Andrews gold course over the weekend to answer "10 Questions with..."
Murder in the Cathedral opens March 30, 2013 for four performances.
Aria Serious (AS): First, welcome back to San Diego Opera – we’re very pleased to have you return to us to sing Beckett in Murder in the Cathedral. What have you been up to these past few seasons?
Ferruccio Furlanetto (FF): It is always a great joy for me to be back in San Diego in what I consider my American family.
In these few past seasons I kept basically doing my favorite roles in the theaters where I like to perform the most as London, Vienna, Met, Mariinsky in San Petersburg and Bolshoi.
AS: Pizzetti’s opera is new to our audiences can you tell us a bit about the opera?
FF: Pizzetti's Assassinio nella Cattedrale is a piece that is not very well known simply because it is difficult to cast. The role of Thomas Becket is a gigantic role not only for its demanding vocals but also for deep acting interpretation required that is equal to Boris Godunov or King Philip.
It was composed in 1953 and presented for the first time at the Auditorium RAI of Torino conducted by Pizzetti himself with Nicola Rossi Lemeni in the title role. A few years later, Herbert Von Karajan did it in the State Opera of Vienna with Hans Hotter. As it happens very often, even to beautiful pieces, it was forgotten for quite a while.
I started to perform this opera in 2002 in Trieste , performed a few other concert versions in Italy and, finally after 54 years of absence, I did it in La Scala of Milan in 2008 in a splendid production of Yannis Kokkos and conducted by Donato Renzetti whom we have the great privilege to have in San Diego. Maestro Renzetti is not only a very refined and charismatic conductor but also a stunning interpreter of this masterpiece and, last but not least, a splendid person.
AS: Can you tell us a bit about the role of Becket, which I am told is one of your favorite roles?
FF: The role of Becket, as I said previously, is vocally very demanding with virtuoso excursions up and down the bass' register. The Pizzetti style was based on the "declamato" of the libretto which is very profound and extremely faithful to T.S. Eliot work. Finally one must apply all these important things a very felt and deep acting.
AS: Any exciting roles for you coming up?
FF: I think that the most important thing at this stage of my career is to keep doing my favorite roles in productions that fulfill my expectation. The only new role that I will sing in the next future is Kovansky in Khovanshchina and it will be at the Vienna State Opera in the fall 2014.
AS: With such an incredible career already, you’ve probably sung every role in the bass repertoire but are there any dream roles that you would love to sing? Any roles in the bass repertoire that you’ve grown out of but miss?
FF: Well, the one I just mentioned represents my only desire at this moment, while the role that I would have loved to do in the past but never happened is probably Papageno but at least in my Mozart recording I sang the two lovely arias.
AS: Fill in the blank section: “If I was not an opera singer I would be __________”
FF: This is quite hard to say after 38 years in this field. When I decided to go into the opera world I was studying something completely different at the University: Forestry. So...
AS: Two parter: What’s your favorite part of being an international opera singer? What’s your least favorite part?
FF: This profession is a privilege that allows somebody to have a very rewarding life and amazing satisfactions, it would be quite difficult to say what comes first in this long list of benefits. For the second part it is very easy to answer: Luggage!
AS: Some people say there is more to life than opera. We think they’re crazy too. But we’ll humor them: do you have any hobbies?
FF: I am sure that by now everybody in San Diego knows how much I love golf,(I just had the great honor to become a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews). Then I also have a great passion of classic cars, I have few and they are my most beloved toys.
AS: Do you have a book next to your bed? What is it?
FF: In this moment I have few operas and concerts to be refreshed and this is taking away all my reading time unfortunately. When I finish studying I really wish to rest my poor eyes.
AS: Since you are coming back to San Diego, anything about our city (besides the golf) you are looking forward to revisiting?
FF: When I come back to a place that I really love, I want to visit again everything and everybody, so this will happen in spring when I will be finally with all of you again.
But I am sure that in these few years the city kept changing and I will find something new to treasure.