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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Faust at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Germany

    Faust by Charles Gounod at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, Germany

    This review is for the performance of Tuesday 26 June, 2018. The production is a co-production with the Aalto-Musiktheater/Theater und Philharmonie Essen

    Conductor: Jacques Lacombe
    Director: Philipp Stölzl

    Cast

    Faust: Charles Castronovo
    Mephistopheles: Alex Esposito
    Marguerite: Nicole Car
    Valentin: Thomas Lehmann
    Siebel: Vasilisa Berzhanskaya
    Wagner: Dean Murphy
    Marthe: Fredrika Brillembourg

    I had never seen Faust before - in fact, although I am familiar with the famous chorus, I had not even heard the opera the whole way thru before this, which is why I was curious to see it performed. I am not a fan of Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, which is the reason I avoided Faust all these years.

    The curtain went up to reveal a huge cylinder in the center of the stage - the cylinder served to highlight a revolving ring set into the stage, which was used to move the chorus and props. The overture/prelude is played and we are introduced to Marguerite, who is sitting at what appears to be a small desk. The opera proceeds in flashback.

    Since the Faust plot is well known, what with the frail old Faust selling his soul to the devil, that I won’t repeat it here. The Stölzl production does a clear and efficient job of revealing the plot. Stölzl’s one real vanity - eccentricity - was putting the entire chorus in masks that were half Twilight Zone (remind me and I will find a photo after I return home) and half empire Star Wars troops. I’m not sure what, if any, symbolism there was to the masks, but they did serve to stylize the production, which also seemed to be set in something of a police state - complete with a section of the Berlin Wall. Marguerite, instead of being assumed by angels at the opera’s conclusion, is executed by her jailers with Gounod’s ecstatic music as accompaniment.

    Faust was sung by the very good Charles Castronovo - he seems to be making a specialty of Faust as he sang the role in last year’s La Damnation de Faust at the Staatsoper, and was in fine voice. His Mephistophele was Alex Esposito, with whom I am not familiar, but found to be a compelling singer and dramatically intense on stage.

    Marguerite, Nicole Car, had some squally high notes during the first act that had me squirming. She warmed up considerably for her big moment at the opera’s conclusion and was very effective. Valentin, Thomas Lehmann, was impressive in the dramatic comprimario role and died with a flourish, lying immobile in the snow until his curtain call.

    If I have one complaint, it is with what I assume is Gounod’s second act ballet - an extended sequence of instrumental music where the director had to come up with some kind of action while nothing happens. In a fairly long opera of 3 hours - and an early 7:00 PM curtain, I sitting and thinking, “get on with it already”. Anyway, in summary, the opera was very well sung and sufficiently interesting that I look forward to 1) WNO’s presentation this coming season and 2) adding the recording to my library.

    Now, about those Russians sitting next to me last night talking and playing with their phones...

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    Now, about those Russians sitting next to me last night talking and playing with their phones...
    I dread to think what operas at the Mariisnky are like if you are sitting in the audience. It must be a cacophony and a light show.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Clayton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    ...second act ballet... I sitting and thinking, “get on with it already”...
    ballet can have this effect on people

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