La Damnation de Faust Lepage Met Production

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La Damnation de Faust Lepage Met Production

Post by lennygoran » Sun Apr 12, 2020 7:40 pm

Taking advantage of the Met's On Demand free offer we watched it tonight On Demand-we had seen it live quite a few years ago-it was free for us-we didn't like the production on seeing it today-too much reliance on technology-a little too much circus acrobatics-you could see why the Met decided not to perform it again for safety reasons and let it become a concert performance only-the safety issue is definitely there! We had ordered it as part of our make-your-own subscriptions-- they offered to make it part of a concert performance for us but we wanted the full opera and not this production so we got our money back-Lepage is hard to take but imo he got The Ring right but not this one. Len

'La Damnation de Faust'
Between Hell and Heaven, a World of Morphing Imagery

By Anthony Tommasini

Nov. 9, 2008

The most talked-about element of the director Robert Lepage’s new production of Berlioz’s “Damnation de Faust” for the Metropolitan Opera, which opened on Friday night, is sure to be its stunning use of video imagery. Working with the interactive video designer Holger Förterer, Mr. Lepage has created a staging in which eerily detailed video depictions of everything from a grassy field to a fiery hell shift and morph in response to the movements and singing of the cast and chorus.

I have reservations about the pervasive use of video, which flattens the scenic impact of the staging by projecting the imagery onto a multitiered, boxed wall of a set that fills the entire stage. To judge from the rousing ovation Mr. Lepage received, this innovative production looks to be a popular success.

But fascination with the video wizardry should not obscure the big news of the production: the magnificent performance James Levine drew from the orchestra and the robust singing of the Met’s remarkable chorus, which continues to thrive under its chorus master, Donald Palumbo.

Berlioz never intended for his “dramatic legend in four parts,” as he subtitled this concert work, to be staged. But that has not stopped opera companies from trying. The music has a curious mixture of French refinement and fantastical wildness. Mr. Levine emphasized the refinement, drawing clear-textured and richly colorful playing from the orchestra. Even in blazing episodes, like the infernal scene with the wailing chorus in hell or the Hungarian march, in which soldiers head to war amid bursts of brass and rattling woodwinds, Mr. Levine kept the music cool and subtle.

He conveyed the ethereal delicacy of the “Dance of the Sylphs,” while drawing attention to the weird harmonies. And he brought an eerie calmness to the opening soliloquy for the disconsolate old Faust, here the tenor Marcello Giordani, in an impassioned if vocally uneven performance. As the ambling contrapuntal lines in the orchestra cushioned Faust’s waywardly lyrical outpourings, you were at once baffled and entranced by this pensive, strangely inspired music.

The imposing, four-tiered wall of Carl Fillion’s set is subdivided into 24 cubicles. When individual screens drop into place, the set becomes a continuous surface, like some supersize flat-screen television, on which enormous images can be projected.

Mr. Lepage’s video-show staging certainly solves a problem inherent in Berlioz’s unconventional score, a setting of scenes from Goethe’s “Faust,” adapted in a libretto by Berlioz and Almire Gandonnière. The fluid video images provide the connective narrative elements missing from Berlioz’s work.

In one surreal scene uniformed soldiers head to battle on two tiers of the set, marching backward in single file, while on the other two tiers their loved ones, walking backward in the opposite direction, wave teary goodbyes. This scene dissolves into another, in which we see families left behind having humble dinners at home. Almost imperceptibly the dinner tables become study desks in book-lined cubicles, like the stacks at a university library. All the scholars in their carrels are young men but for one, the despairing Dr. Faust.

Other striking images capture the magic of the music. When Méphistophélès, the bass-baritone John Relyea, tempts Faust, now transformed into a young man, with the prospect of the love of a young woman, Marguerite, he rows Faust across a placid lake. Suddenly Méphistophélès capsizes the boat, and Faust appears to sink into a swirling pool, where he has an underwater dance with a nymphlike creature.

Mr. Giordani, who took the title role of Berlioz’s “Benvenuto Cellini” in the Met’s first production of the work, in 2003, deserves credit for singing the daunting role of Faust with such ardor and intelligence. Still, he has a classic Italian tenor voice with a rich vibrato that he has had trouble controlling of late. Ideally the music wants a more refined French-style tenor, someone better able to handle its soaring pianissimo flights.

Mr. Relyea is a vocally commanding Méphistophélès, mixing stentorian power with wily, seductive lyricism. Alas, his campy costume is a tight-fitting reddish leather outfit with a silly feathered cap. During curtain calls, when he took off the cap, Mr. Relyea revealed his devilish good looks and seemed much more Satanic.

The mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, an inspired choice as Marguerite, sounds terrific. She was especially fine in “D’amour, l’ardente flamme,” in Part 4, when this tragic young woman, awaiting execution in prison, still pines with love for Faust. Ms. Graham brought a lovely blend of rapturous richness and elegant restraint to this wistful aria, with its elusive melody and soothing, almost Wagnerian orchestral backdrop.

During this scene Ms. Graham’s face is reflected in an enormous close-up video image, engulfed in smoke and flame. Could this be a hint of what Mr. Lepage has in mind for Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene, when in 2010-11 he stages the Met’s new production of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle? ... 0faus.html

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