Immediately following the opening performance of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin on 25 September, Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, who sang the role of Prince Gremin, was presented with the San Francisco Opera Medal.
In the onstage ceremony after the performance, San Francisco Opera's General Director, Matthew Shilvock said:
In your artistry, you carry forward the tradition of the most wonderfully resonant basses like Cesare Siepi, whom you once called ‘the most luminous model to follow'. You likewise are a luminous model for singers to follow, showing how to marry a depth of vocal beauty with incisive characterizations, all while being one of the most kind, caring and supportive of colleagues. At this opening of Eugene Onegin, we celebrate your 43 years of spectacular artistry on this stage. With heartfelt gratitude from the whole San Francisco Opera family, it is a great honour to present you with the San Francisco Opera Medal.
Addressing the audience, Furlanetto said:
I am extremely touched and proud to receive this honour from the Opera House where I started my international career… quite a while ago. But this is, once more, proof that this profession of mine has been and still is the most amazing and unique privilege. I thank you all from the deepest of my heart.
Ferruccio Furlanetto, who comes from the small north-eastern Italian town of Sacile, made his professional debut in Lonigo, near Vicenza, in 1974 as Sparafucile in Rigoletto. Within a few years, he had embarked on his spectacular international operatic career, one lasting nearly five decades. Shortly after his American debut in New Orleans, Furlanetto made his San Francisco Opera debut on the opening night of the 1979 season. He sang Alvise in Ponchielli's La Gioconda alongside Luciano Pavarotti and Renata Scotto in a production that was seen worldwide via a live telecast. Furlanetto returned to San Francisco Opera two years later for a new production of Aida, a keystone event of Kurt Herbert Adler's final season as general director. Furlanetto joined the cast as Ramfis on the same night that soprano Leontyne Price dramatically stepped in for an ailing colleague on short notice.
On 29 June 2016, Furlanetto brought arguably his most renowned operatic role to life on the War Memorial Opera House stage: King of Spain, Philip II, in Don Carlo. Since 1979, San Francisco Opera audiences have seen him in eight roles: Alvise (1979); Don Diègue in Massenet's Le Cid (1981); Ramfis (1981); Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor (1981); the title role of Verdi's Attila (2012); Philip II (2016); Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte (2021) and Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin (2022).
The San Francisco Opera Medal was inaugurated in 1970 when former General Director Kurt Herbert Adler awarded the first medal to soprano Dorothy Kirsten. Past awardees include Samuel Ramey, Marilyn Horne, James Morris and Birgit Nilsson, former music directors Donald Runnicles and Nicola Luisotti, the composer John Adams, artist David Hockney and dramaturg Dr Clifford “Kip” Cranna.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.