Review by Olivia Ruggiero
A world-renowned bass and an even more thrilling pianist took to the City Recital Hall stage in Sydney last week for a 2 act concert.
The first act was filled with luscious art song by Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky and Brahms. Although, unfortunately in this instance it is a little slow going. Feruccio Furnaletto, the star of the show is quite clearly unwell, as he retreats behind his music stand after each song to have a quiet cough into his hands. As he grips the piano at times for support during the performance, his health is obviously a concern. Art song should not be boring, with its beauty and narrative, in fact, it should be entrancing and glorious. However, in this instant, whether it be Furnaletto’s illness at work or perhaps a lack of interpretation, the music falls a little short. Furnaletto seems to be lazy in this first act, sliding between notes, adding far too much portamenti and without giving the music the passion and emotion it needs. A bit more feeling would have engaged the audience more and perhaps left them excited for the next act. The first act certainly belonged to pianist Natalia Sidorenko, who played with such feeling and at the same time, technical perfection, that she was far more engaging in this half of the concert.
The music is, no doubt, beautiful but lacks sparkle in it’s bringing to life.
The second act is much more alive. Operatic arias are clearly Furnaletto’s bread and butter, and he even seems to have more gusto in this half. Whilst he still retreats behind his music stand after each instance to take a moment, he abandons the music stand all together whilst he is performing and takes to the stage as though he were acting the scenes within the opera. His Mozart work is exemplary as he navigates the tricky passages with dexterity and flair. His “Non più andrai” is full of cheek and hilarity as it should be – certainly a highlight of the evening. A close second would be “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” from Don Giovanni which he sings with grace and ease – a difficult feat as this aria is notoriously complex!
He ends with some heavier content from Mussorgsky and Verdi (the role which made Furnaletto’s career) and it is here we can appreciate his versatility. He goes from comedic to tortured and despairing with great ease. None of the arias are anything but gripping, they leave you entranced, and his rendition of the Death Scene from Don Quichotte left me completely transported.
Natalia Sidorenko is still outstanding in her work, and it is almost as if at the end of each aria the audience waits for her to signal when the moment is over – the applause is held until Ms Sidorenko is finished living and breathing the music.
Whilst the first half was a little wanting the second act of this concert was a masterclass in Opera and a treat for the senses. Whilst I perhaps wouldn’t jump to see Furnaletto sing a concert full of art song, I would not hesitate to buy a ticket to seeing him in a fully staged opera.