Those who took Spanish in high school might remember reading Miguel de Cervantes’ renowned novel, “Don Quixote.” For some, it was the most dreaded part of the year. Not only is the novel in Spanish, but it’s in 400-year-old Spanish. For literature enthusiasts such as myself, however, reading the novel was an opportunity to delve into something unfamiliar and exciting. So, you can imagine my excitement when I recently discovered that this legendary novel had been reinterpreted as “Don Quichotte,” an opera by French composer Jules Massenet, and was soon to be performed by the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Of course, I had to go.
Written by Jules Massenet in 1910, “Don Quichotte” is one of the greatest operatic masterpieces of the 20th century. Its style is multifaceted, with complementing elements of both comedy and tragedy. The Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of today’s most accomplished performance companies. When you combine the talented company with the timeless opera, you produce a successful, dazzling, humorous show that captivates its audiences and forces them to think. With alluring sets — a starry sky combined with a Frenchman’s idea of 17th century Spain — and engaging performers such as Ferruccio Furlanetto, Clémentine Margaine, and Nicola Alaimo, “Don Quichotte” impresses and entrances its audience.
Furlanetto, a world-renowned Italian bass vocalist, stole the show with his genuine personification and portrayal of Don Quichotte, an iconic character in both Spanish and French culture. He was able to take a fictitious figure and bring him to life on the stage without damaging the Quichotte that we know and love along the way.
Margaine shines as Dulcinée. She is the character we all want to despise for breaking the heart of our lovable hero, but we just can’t. The woman has too much poise and elegance for us to ever harbor any spite toward her. Heartbreaking is her art and Quichotte is her masterpiece. If he were to be brought down, it would never be by the sword, but by the slow death of unrequited love.
But where would we be without our beloved Sancho Panza? Alaimo portrays the loyal friend and squire who humors Quichotte when he gets a little imaginative and defends him when the townspeople ridicule his actions. Panza is the best friend we all wish we had. In the end, when a dying Quichotte lies on a bed of rocks, ready for death to take him, Sancho is the one by his side. This unforgettable moment reminds us that when we leave, we are never truly gone, but live on in the hearts of those who loved us, and that the truest way to leave one’s mark on the earth is to love deeply rather than widely.
The Lyric Opera’s interpretation of “Don Quichotte” is both elegant and substantial. The company is highly-renowned and provides only the best of performers and performances, so as usual, it did not disappoint. With stunning, starry sets and captivating orchestral rhythms, this show grabbed and kept the audience’s attention. The story contains satisfying life and substance, and in the end, it leaves you asking yourself profound questions about who will mourn you when you’re gone, and how resolute you are in your beliefs.
Lyric is a highly-renowned company that provides only the best of performers and performances and they did not disappoint. From the stunning starry sets to the captivating orchestral rhythms, they know not only how to grab an audience’s attention, but keep it. In addition, the choice of show was more than satisfactory. It contains life and substance, and in the end leaves you asking yourself questions such as “Who in my life will mourn me when I’m gone?” and “Would I still believed in the things I do if I were the only one who believed in them?”
“Don Quichotte” is playing at The Lyric Opera of Chicago (20 N. Upper Wacker Drive) through Dec. 7. Ticket prices range from $20-$229 and can be purchased online at www.lyricopera.org.