[Met Performance] CID:328060
Faust {707} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/03/2003.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
March 3, 2003


FAUST {707}
Gounod-Barbier/Carré

Faust...................Robert Alagna
Marguerite..............Angela Gheorghiu
Méphistophélès..........James Morris
Valentin................Dwayne Croft, Act I
Valentin................Mark Oswald, Act III
Siebel..................Katarina Karnéus
Marthe..................Catherine Cook
Wagner..................Alfred Walker

Conductor...............Bertrand de Billy

Stage Director..........Peter McClintock
Designer................Rolf Langenfass
Lighting Designer.......Gil Wechsler
Choreographer...........Gillian Lynne

Faust received seven performances this season.

Revival gift of The DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund.


Production photos of Faust by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of John W. Freeman in the May 2003 issue of OPERA NEWS

"Faust" was back, and so were the Alagnas, on March 3, when the Met dusted off its 1990 production. Judging by a full house and salvos of applause, old friends are still best friends. But what is one to make of those Rolf Langenfass designs? His gnarled fantasy land of Gothic decay seems worthier of Busoni's "Doktor Faust" than of Gounod's version. Stage director Peter McClintock steered the principals through the tortuous maze of the garden scene, while in the more open public spaces, choreographer Gillian Lynne got up a kermis straight out of "Brigadoon." A survivor of the original Harold Prince staging was a soldiers' chorus of wounded, traumatized veterans.

A capable cast did its best to relieve these glum surroundings with some Belle Epoque warmth. Roberto Alagna played a cheerful Faust who approached even the exposed high C in "Salut, demeure" apparently "sans terreur." His tuning has improved, apart from a couple of high notes on the sharp side, and he sings French as naturally as he registers emotion with his voice. His tenor has an individual, grainy timbre, though its slightly baritonal cast is belied by a relatively unimpressive lower register. His love duet with Angela Gheorghiu was shapely, expressive and smoothly blended. Few sopranos have succeeded so well in showing Marguerite's progress from innocent amazement (at Faust's interest in her) to erotic awareness. In the church and prison scenes, with her clear top voice and sensuous lower range, she continued to unfold the character expressively.

James Morris, a seasoned Méphistophélès, was fitted with a Halloween costume that left him no choice but to play the role obviously. Rather than going for a suave Gallic approach, he took the Slavic route, singing broadly and putting a snarl in his tone. There were flashes of wit and irony, and his exchanges with the blowsy Marthe of Catherine Cook spiced up the garden scene with a pinch of music-hall humor. Dwayne Croft, though he managed Valentin's Act I aria creditably, had been announced as suffering from sinusitis, so in Act III he was replaced by Mark Oswald. In the fatal confrontation with Méphistophélès, Oswald's cockier, less dignified characterization suited the staging, which made him clamber over the awkward set, and he put a threatening tone into his death scene. Katarina Karnéus sang Siébel's romance with vibrance, verve and focused point, while Alfred Walker took an agreeably lively turn as Wagner.

The Met's "Faust" removes one cliche, Marguerite's spinning wheel, from "Il était un roi de Thulé," where it doesn't belong. It does belong with her spinning song, "II ne revient pas," but that music, along with Siébel's "Si le bonheur" is banished. The Walpurgisnacht and its ballet are gone altogether. Despite these cuts, the somber tone of the production makes a long evening seem even longer. Perhaps sensing this, conductor Bertrand de Billy, after a torpid introduction, kept things moving right along. The waltz at the kermis went a mile a minute, and the garden scene never dragged. Along the way, de Billy still took care of such details as the postlude of the garden scene and its echo after Valentin's death, with their poignant falling violin phrases.



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