Culture Magazine

From Penury to Perdition

By Superconductor @ppelkonen
The Philadelphia Orchestra's La Damnation de Faust

From Penury to Perdition

Worth going to Hell for: Susan Graham
Photo by Dario Acosta © IMG Artists


On Saturday night at Verizon Hall, the Philadelphia Orchestra concluded their tumultuous 2010-2011 season with Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust, the "dramatic legend" by Hector Berlioz that straddles the fine line between oratorio and full-blown opera. Damnation comes at the end of a season that has seen this proud organization's board file for bankruptcy, a bizarre move that may damage their reputation and pride of place as one of America's premiere ensembles.
Financial difficulties aside, the famous "Philadelphia Sound" was present throughout this performance, from the opening string fugue that begins the piece, through the thundering Rákóczy March that ends Part I. Berlioz stretched his source material here, bringing Faust to the plains of Hungary for no other reason than to insert this famous melody into his piece. Under the baton of chief conductor Charles Dutoit, the Philadelphians showed what a good idea this was.
The star of the evening was mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as Marguerite, the object of Faust's romantic obsession who comes dangerously close to damnation herself. Ms. Graham entered Verizon Hall halfway through the performance, and demonstrated total engagement and familiarity with this complex material. She brought raw emotion and smooth, rich tone to her two arias: the Song of the King of Thule and the famous "D'amour l'ardente flamme" that marks her exit.
Paul Groves was an impressive, serious presence as the doomed Faust wandering, and ultimately doomed Faust. His opening "Le viel hiver" had the right note of restless wandering. The Study scene was marked by introspection, which turned to abundant energy with the arrival of Méphistopheles. The love duet with Ms. Graham benefited from their time opposite each other in Gluck's Iphégenie en Tauride at the Metropolitan Opera. They shared real chemistry, acting together despite the oratorio setting and making the performance more than just a concert.
David Wilson-Johnson was an appropriately wicked Mephistopheles. He swaggered through his opening duet with Faust and blustered appropriately in the Song of the Flea. He displayed cool command over his will o'the wisps in the scene by the banks of the Elbe, singing over the sleeping Faust with the demonic equivalent of affection. Throughout, Mr. Wilson-Johnson was an expressive presence, using his face and eyes to convey Mephistopheles' intent as he led Faust down the long road to hell. The final gallop and pandemonium was his triumphant moment, and he sunk down, spent.
Mr. Dutoit displayed great energy on the podium, using baton, fingers, eyebrows and elbows to command the great choral, orchestral and vocal forces required for Berlioz' vision. He alternated between the musicians in front of him, to the trio of soloists, to the choristers arrayed above the orchestra in the so-called "Conductor's Circle" of Verizon Hall. He conducted this score in a brusque way, making the rhythms snap and the flames of Hell leap in the tricky Pandemonium chorus. The Philadelphia Singers Chorale, filling the roles of soldiers, demons, seraphim and townspeople armed with torches, sang with admirable precision.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Boyfriend From Hell

    Boyfriend From Hell

    Fifteen year-old Megan Barnett and her single mom, Suze, have a special relationship—they are friends, close friends, who do almost everything together. Read more

    By  Readingromances
    BOOKS, CULTURE
  • London Love from ATG

    London Love from

    Show your love for London with this classic "I LOVE LDN" t-shirt design from London crew ATG. It's a limited edition in a brand new colourway, hand screen... Read more

    By  Invisiblemadevisible
    ART & DESIGN, CULTURE
  • Pudding from the Past

    Pudding from Past

    The Guardian has the lovely story of a Christmas pudding found at the back of a kitchen cupboard - 111 years after it was sent to a sailor fighting in the Boer... Read more

    By  Carolineld
    CULTURE, HISTORY
  • Beautiful Pictures from Barcelona

    Beautiful Pictures from Barcelona

    Hi all - so for those following my Europe trip, this will be the last post for Spain. I have many more countries to share with you, and next up will be Italy!... Read more

    By  Decorology
    DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, VACATION
  • Learning from Baseball Photos

    Learning from Baseball Photos

    There are probably a thousand reason why this time of year is great for baseball fans, players, and coaches. One of the things I look forward to is all the grea... Read more

    By  Meachrm
    BASEBALL, LIFE COACH, SPORTS
  • Monday Musings from Dubai

    Monday Musings from Dubai

    TAKEAWAY: Monday February 28, not just another day for me. ALSO: Assorted items, the new WoodWing application, new font for La RepublicaAnother Peter Pan arrive... Read more

    By  Themarioblog
    GADGETS, MEDIA, TECH
  • Tweets From Japan

    Gen Taguchi has been putting together touching tweets from Japan and many people are helping to translate them into English and other languages (they are workin... Read more

    By  Gerard
    SOCIAL MEDIA, TECH