Giuseppe Filianoti in Lucia - Dress Rehearsal - 10/24/2005
I was able to attend today's Dress Rehearsal at the Metropolitan for its Lucia di Lammermoor, opening this coming Thursday, Oct. 27th. As well as being the first Lucia of the season, it will be the Met debut for its Edgardo, Giuseppe Filianoti. The other three principals were Elizabeth Futral, Charles Taylor and John Relyea. Unfortunately, both Futral and Relyea sounded in trouble, but that could simply have been a function of the Rehearsal being in the late morning/early afternoon (starting at 11:00 A.M.)
Filianoti, on the other hand, sounded in no trouble at all. I urge those in the New York area to attend his debut this coming Thursday. It promises to be an exceptional evening. I can't remember the last time a tenor moved me so in this role, and yet, physically, Filianoti is not much of an actor. His is a very severe, stylized presence on stage. Everything he does is geared instead to the phrasing of the music, and there is a patrician sensibility to his singing, somewhat reminiscent of Carlo Bergonzi, although he is a more plausible figure as the "hero". His phrasing strongly recalls Bergonzi's: inexhaustible breath, long-lined skeins of song, stretching sometimes beyond two lines of verse! And all is done musically, with a superb sense of poetic shape to the utterance that never seems encumbered by technical, physical effort; above all, it is the natural ebb and flow, almost like cultivated speech, that stays with one.
The Tomb Scene should make an indelible impression, even if it is only half as fine as what we heard today. The tones in his opening recit were innately affecting, but there was also keen imagination at work in hushed phrases like the first "Tu delle gioe in seno". And then in the "Fra poco a me ricovero", we heard the phrasing he can do. When is the last time we've heard "tu lo dimentica rispetta almeno chi muore" on one breath, with a poignant rallentando yet! It is a measure of the gleam and ease of his top notes, together with the endless supply of breath, that he was able, later on, to shape climactic phrases as sweeping, effortless vocal statements with the pingy top tones "fitting" in freely and musically, rather than cleaving phrases with an exclamation point in the amateurish way of too many others.
Filianoti was at his most imaginative in "Tu che a Dio". He sang the reiterations of "bell'alma inamorato" as wistful, soft echoes of the ones before, sometimes without stopping for breath. The effect was to impart a feeling of Edgardo already losing his life spark, even before plunging the dagger through his heart.
The suicide itself was presented in an oddly ritualized way, with no attempt at realism -- it seemed, anyway. Instead, it came off as an austere, almost abstract evocation of something picturesque from an ancient time. For some, not too convincing, perhaps, but it suited the highly stylized presentation of the music that we were hearing. At the same time, the voice throbbed with immediate feeling. In the da capo, Filianoti delivered "Ti rivolgi, ah" with the "ah" tailing off into a seemingly spontaneous, but utterly musical, sigh. Later, deep into the melodic refrain of the da capo, his singing followed a line of contemplation ... tension ... contemplation ... tension, as if holding Death itself at bay. And the top notes now pealed out. A final gesture almost like a ballet dancer, but still restrained, and the tone itself simply died away on the last "ciel".
This man sings with heart; he doesn't merely make the sounds to earn his paycheck, he seems to be listening as intently as any paying auditor to the "story" that Donizetti's inspired music is "telling" him. And he delivers that "story" with an openness and lack of contrivance that is deeply affecting. The voice is beautiful: it is not big, and when not fully warmed up, the middle can be slightly nasal, but the top is always beautiful and open, both gleaming and simpatico, and by the time of the "Maladetto sia l'istante" in Act II, the whole instrument was clear and of a piece.
If I had to say which two things struck me most about his singing, they were his ease and freedom up to the top, which allowed him to concentrate (seemingly) solely on conveying myriad feelings through song, and the most imaginative musicianship I have heard in any current tenor. These, combined with beautiful diction and a genuinely supple throat, make the role of Edgardo something lofty, almost mystical in its effect. It may not have the red-blooded impact of a Di Stefano, but it has its own humanity, an utterly distinctive persona, arresting and thoroughly individual.
I look forward keenly to hearing from others here who may be able to make it to the Met this Thursday.