‘Mefistofele’ at the Met Opera

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‘Mefistofele’ at the Met Opera

Post by lennygoran » Sat Nov 10, 2018 6:19 am


This is tempting me-we saw it with Ramey-it won't be done HD style. Regards, Len

Review: ‘Mefistofele’ at the Met Opera Is a Devil That Dances

By Zachary Woolfe

Nov. 9, 2018

The best that can be said for some recent Metropolitan Opera productions — “Samson et Dalila” and “Tosca,” I’m looking at you — is that they don’t actively hinder the works being performed. But Robert Carsen’s staging hardly ever stops helping Boito’s “Mefistofele,” which opened on Thursday in its first Met revival in almost 20 years.

Here is a lavishly flawed opera — a lush, static, lengthy musical layer cake — that achieves levity, and even demonic delight, through Mr. Carsen’s interventions. He turns Boito’s sequence of episodes from Goethe’s “Faust” into a louche, lively cross-chronological carnival: part Italian street theater, part bordello, part Baroque theater, part Catholic Mass. If this all doesn’t make “Mefistofele” quite succeed, it does make it dance.

Mr. Carsen’s visual coups — the sets and costumes of the staging, which dates back to a 1988 run in Geneva, are by Michael Levine — match Boito’s soaring music; they’re stunning in their simplicity. A rich red stage curtain rises to reveal a cloud-dotted blue sky. As the chorus chants that poetry must ascend to the heavens, flats depicting an ancient Greek landscape float upward. The devil, violin in hand, climbs to the stage from the orchestra pit on a blood-colored ladder.

That devil, the opera’s title character, is the reason to do the piece, which owes many of its performances over the past few decades to Samuel Ramey, a commanding and sly Mefistofele for whom the Carsen production was mounted. Christian Van Horn’s pectoral muscles are as prominent as Mr. Ramey’s, and his arms maybe even bigger, which goes a long way in a staging with a sexy, frequently shirtless Satan.

Rising — or, should I say, descending — to his first leading role at the Met, Mr. Van Horn is a bass-baritone, not a bass. Like Mr. Ramey, his smooth, powerful, flexible voice has its greatest impact in the baritonal region, rather than the sepulchral depths; his voice doesn’t bloom as it moves downward.

And with both Boito and Mr. Carsen placing a premium on sarcasm and sensuality, Mr. Van Horn wants, perhaps, an extra dash of devil-may-care relish. But that may come: This was, it should be said, his first-ever performance of the role. Long may he reign in hell.

Michael Fabiano’s Faust was, as usual with this tenor, tensely forceful — sometimes exciting, sometimes strained. As Margherita, whom he seduces and abandons, the soprano Angela Meade checked the boxes of dramatic involvement: probing high notes, earthy low ones. But her voice, while penetrating, is not broad — it’s a kind of fine-tipped pen of sound — so she gives the impression of being more poised than impassioned.

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Mefistofele: “Ave, Signor”CreditCreditVideo by Metropolitan Opera

As they often do in “Mefistofele,” the choral episodes — the ethereal Prologue and Epilogue and the raucous Witches’ Sabbath — made the strongest impressions, even if those set pieces could have been built more inexorably by Carlo Rizzi, the conductor, who could also drive the sumptuous-sounding orchestra with even more focus.

Through Dec. 1 at the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center; 212-362-6000, metopera.org.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/09/arts ... ic-reviews

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Re: ‘Mefistofele’ at the Met Opera

Post by John F » Sat Nov 10, 2018 6:34 am

For me, "Mefistofele" is brilliant in the prologue, which Toscanini often conducted as a concert piece, but doesn't sustain its great beginning. And having mentioned Toscanini, I see that the Met's conductor is Carlo Rizzi. :( Still, it's worth seeing at least once.

Speaking of Toscanini:


This from La scala in 1948, with the young Cesare Siepi in the title role. Appalling sound but a great performance.
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Re: ‘Mefistofele’ at the Met Opera

Post by jserraglio » Sat Nov 10, 2018 6:45 am

I am listening to a rip of the webcast of the 2018 Met performance as I type this.

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Re: ‘Mefistofele’ at the Met Opera

Post by maestrob » Sat Nov 10, 2018 11:55 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 6:45 am
I am listening to a rip of the webcast of the 2018 Met performance as I type this.
I'm remembering Norman Treigle writhing about the stage in the NYCO production of the 1970's. Treigle was a small man with an immense sound, and he triumphed in the role. As for Toscanini, he recorded the Prologue with Nicola Moscona, who was godfather to someone I knew at the NYAC during the 1980's. Sadly, when Moscona passed on in 1975, he left his widow almost penniless as the MET had no pension plan before they moved to Lincoln Center.

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