Theatre & Opera Magazine

My Faust #2, ROH, September 18

Posted on the 19 September 2011 by Irinastanescu

My Faust #2, ROH, September 18

Angela Gheorghiu as Marguerite in Faust at Royal Opera House, September 18 - curtain call

Faust at ROH, first night. This is Faust #2 for me and if I think back to the dress rehearsal, #2 was better in terms of general feeling, the connections between the characters and the power of music. There were some small changes here and there, the one that I enjoyed most begin Faust&Marguerite's duet in a proper, romantic posture, sitting on the steps of the house (not lying on them which must have been pretty uncomfortable) and less hugs and kissing. There’s still the issue I have with pulling up her skirts at end of this duet as in my mind it doesn’t match the idea of a perfect, inocent first date. But maybe it’s just me.
The church scene was impressive, with Marguerite’s prayer and the scary curse cast by Mephistopheles. David McVicar chose to put this scene at the beginning of act 4, not in the end, after Valentin’s death. I still like a lot the last 15 minutes. I can stand through the entire opera several times only to listen to that part. Because you get to a point where everything explodes. There’s something in that dim atmosphere, holiness after an entire act in the devil’s realm, there’s Marguerite’s “Anges purs, anger radieux”. That was the moment I loved Angela’s voice (with all the colors, emotions and rising intensity contained in it) and acting best. Such a pity that this part is so short. The accelerated pulse was a sign that I really enjoyed everything, from the moment she got on stage in the fifth act to her death and last notes of the orchestra.
I liked that Vittorio Grigolo was … less exuberant than the previous performance (Faust only gets younger but he still has the mind of a grown up man, right?) and more focused on singing. I felt the need of more involvement from his side in "Salut demeure chaste et pure". This aria is about love. It should sound like that. While watching his Faust, I had a vision of his Des Grieux, that young, jumping-up-and-down character in the beginning of the opera. Well…  But all in all he was ok, without convincing me as he did in Manon last year.
Hvorostovsky seemed a little bit stiff. Somehow more concentrated on himself than on interacting with the others. Nice voice, not very powerful but I already knew that from his Onegin in Vienna. Glad to see him again on stage. And speaking of Vienna, the power and emotion delivered by the chorus after Valentin’s death in that 2008 Faust was simply amazing and above what I heard last evening.
Rene Pape was Mephistopheles, frightening, devilish, funny when wearing the dress in act four. He appears and disappears in key moments and changes the lives of the people that get in touch with him. He even managed to keep the tempo in the second act when the orchestra and chorus were on different bars. Loved the voice and the character he created.
I’m still not into the ballet. I must admit though that McVicar’s idea of presenting Walpurgis night is brilliant. it's hard to describe. It's better to buy the DVD or go to the cinema to get what I'm saying. But the more I see the opera, the more I understand this ballet part so who knows… I might end up really liking it. Oh, and I have to point out that I find the sets beautiful. On DVD everything seems smaller. In real life, the sets occupy the entire stage and have a great contribution to creating the atmosphere.

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