Last night was the premiere of a new production of Gounoud’s Faust, an opera that coincidentally opened the old met so long ago. I was listening away all night as many other fans. It was an interesting performance.
I saw Jonas Kaufman at La Scala in February as Cavaradossi in Tosca. (Another production the Met exchanged) I didn’t like him then, I didn’t like him in the ROH DVD of Carmen with Antonacci, but I was pleasantly surprised last night. Faust is a loaded character, requiring intense acting skills and a vocal ability that can last for 3 hours and forty minutes. I personally feel Kaufman’s voice is just too dark. He almost sounds like a baritone. I don’t love it, but I respect him a lot. Faust is hard. He did a good job.
I think everyone’s highlight of the evening was Rene` Pape. He was the most likeable devil I had ever heard and he owned his character. And Faust’s. (It’s a joke) He has a pretty large register he uses to his advantages. His singing was audible, well timed, wrought with acting, and superb. Bravo.
Marina Poplavskya was interesting. It also added to the fact that apparently her face was plastered on the screen during each intermission… We’ll get to that later. She is a good singer with an audible stage presence. She has a “deep” voice, with dark expression. It really worked for her in this role. And, I think she looks like celebrity chef Giada di Laurentiis. Look!
Now I’m thinking about food….. Anyway, this afternoon the Met put some clips of the Faust dress rehearsal on it’s website. I was able to get a taste of it and from what Margret Juntwait and William Berger explained it as last night, we may have a problem. I am a traditionalist scenery person. I swear by the scenic renditions of Zeffirelli and del Monaco. My mind has been a slight closed throughout the past seasons but this minimalistic scenery craze is driving me crazy.
I’m not generally an “artistic” person, so when somebody puts a box and nothing else on a stage, I see a box and nothing else on an empty stage. The director though sees a grand box that holds the key to eternal happiness and from it springs harmony and passion and gardens. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t get that from one box on an empty stage. Last night’s Faust was set in Faust’s laboratory after the detonation of the Atom Bomb. Why must everything be updated? I understand that many feel opera is a dying art form and this is how it’s kept relative for today’s audiences but I would prefer the rococo period staged Zeffirelli Traviata to Willy Decker’s current one!
Where has the grandeur and spectacle of opera gone? Where has the originality gone? So many of the Met’s productions are borrowed from other houses. I understand the times are tight and the Met is no exception, but something new can be just as great as something old.