This is a very fine release from Dynamic, technically up to their usual superb standards. The picture quality is excellent and the audio has a natural balance. It's the only advantage that this DVD has over the SF one with Ramey at his sexiest, charismatic prime, but that DVD is of an almost 20 years old performance and it's time for a new one (these are the only two of this opera.) Boito gave Mefistofele more meat than a lead role usually gets - the role requires a lot of stamina but the bass gets to be in the limelight most of the evening and Furlanetto has the goods. It is difficult to judge how big a voice is on an electronic document, because everything is relative on a recording and you can turn the volume up or down, but I know from hearing him live that he has a big voice. If you adjust the volume to a comfort level with his first entry, the other principals will sound weak, but if you use Filianoti's first bars as a point of reference for adjusting the volume loud enough (Filianoti has a medium size voice), you would get an idea how loud Furlanetto is. His timbre is a touch dry and he can only vary his dynamics between ff and fff, but these voices do not come a-dime-a-dozen and we should be grateful for what we get here.
Filianoti takes a while to warm up, but once he does you get his immaculate sense of style, amazing legato and fantastic phrasing, where he drops every syllable like a pearl. I don't know if this role has enough meat for viewers to appreciate what it was about Filianoti that made such a stir in his MET debut as Edgardo in 2005 - it's really in the context of those unforgettable evenings that I revisit this voice (his later Edgardos from La Scala and SF and his 3 MET Edgardos from 2008 were not on the same level - he had a very good run night after night [6 performances, all preserved] at the Met in 2005.)
Theodossiou does not push at all in this role, neither does she use any chest voice, so you get to hear her at her most rounded, intoxicating timbre with lovely soft singing. She does not have the trills for the famous prison cell aria, but she is so genuine and touching in her portrayal of a woman who grows from escapist madness to one that comes to terms with her crimes and faces and accepts her punishment. Her display of Margherita's remorse and begging for the Lord's grace is poignant. Filianoti and Theodossiou are at their best when Furlanetto is not on stage, because when he does he overshadows everyone else with his presence, and his loud singing overwhelms their more subtle efforts.
Rino Trasi, Dynamic's excellent sound engineer preserved the natural balance (or imbalance) of the voices as well as voices vs. orchestra and you don't hear an attempt to even out the differences between the singers or an orchestra that is spot-miked like in so many other recordings, even though he doesn't spot-mike any less than other engineers (he usually uses 7-9 mics to spot-mike every family of instruments, plus 4-5 Schoeps mk4 cardioids stage front on the floor, plus a pair of shot-guns from up-above to open the image and capture the choir which is very important here, not to mention body mikes, which he uses mainly in Pesaro. So he arrives to the studio with 16/24 or more separate channels, yet the sound is so natural because of the amount of time and attention he dedicates to the mixing and his good ear.)
The sets and costumes are colorful and pleasing, only in one scene bordering on ludicrous, with a lot of bare mamillary glands but, alas, no full-frontal male nudity this time. I would not stoop to extol the work of director Giancarlo del Monaco, one of the greatest a-s--l-s in the business - it is full of the usual clichés, but it works.
This score can sound disjointed with the wrong conductor, and this performance has a stop-and-go quality - you sometimes get the feeling that the music almost comes to a halt, but I believe it's because he had to accommodate Furlanetto whose stamina can stretch only so far at this stage of his career. So many times you accuse a conductor of failing to bring out the fire in the score, when in fact the conductor has to tailor the rhythmic framework to the cast member who is the slowest runner, or the singer will simply not be able to sing his words - and then everything else has to fall in place with a rhythmic framework that's in synch. Stefano Ranzani, the conductor, shows what he is capable of in some scenes where the principals have little to sing. Overall, recommended to lovers of this strange score that doesn't fit any particular genre.