Massenet: Don Quichote

LABELS: Mariinsky
WORKS: Don Quichote
PERFORMER: Ferruccio Furlanetto, Anna Kiknadze, Andrei Serov, Eleonora Vindau, Yulia Matochkina, Carlos D’Onofrio, Dmitry Koleushko, Didier Jouanny; Mariinsky Orchestra; Soloists Ensemble of the Mariinsky; Academy of Young Singers/Valery Gergiev


Massenet’s last great success sentimentalised the famous tale of Don Quixote, shorn of Miguel de Cervantes’s mordant satire and raw buffoonery. Despite lashings of lively Spanish pastiche, the score remains more urbanely French than Bizet’s Carmen. Dulcinée is an ageing courtesan rather than a peasant girl, Sancho becomes more heroic; both perceive the old knight’s delusions are admirable, even saintly. And the Don himself becomes a figure of gently tragic melancholy, rather than fun – not least because Massenet created him for the great bass Feodor Chaliapin. Don Quichote’s heroics are largely for Dulcinée’s sake; it’s her rejection
not disillusion that kills him.

In recent recordings he has been sung nobly by Nicolai Ghiaurov, in the robust, heavily accented Chaliapin mould for conductor Kazimierz Kord; and by José van Dam, idiomatic but with lighter voice. On this disc, Ferruccio Furlanetto’s basso cantante makes a fine compromise – rich but smooth in fluent French – and Valery Gergiev whips up the score more vigorously than either predecessor. Anna Kiknadze has a fine mezzo-soprano as Dulcinée, but not, as yet, the luxuriant tones and worldly regret of Régine Crespin and Teresa Berganza. For Sancho, Andrei Serov has more power than Alain Fondary, but less character; Gabriel Bacquier, for Kord, excels them both. Kord also has the finest supporting cast and liveliest production. But Gergiev has excellent surround sound, and this new version comes recommended despite Kord’s slight edge.


Michael Scott Rohan