David McVicar's production starring Michael Fabiano and Erwin Schrott is opera perfection. First seen at the Royal Opera House in 2004, this is its fifth revival. The story, adapted by Gounod's librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from Carré's play Faust et Marguerite, is based on Part I of Goethe's epic poem Faust, which was a major inspiration for many composers during the 19th century and beyond. Gounod added a ballet to Act V when Faust received its first Paris Opéra staging in 1869. David McVicar's wonderfully theatrical production draws insightful parallels between Faust and Gounod, a composer torn between piety and worldly and romantic success. Sets and costumes by Charles Edwards and Brigitte Reiffenstuel pay tribute to the art and architecture of 1870s Paris, and include a colourful Cabaret d'Enfer, a run-down tenement block and re-creations of a box from the Paris Opéra and the organ loft of Notre-Dame. The variety of settings mirrors the variety in Gounod's score, highlights of which include Méphistophélès's demonic aria 'Le veau d'or', Marguerite's dazzling coloratura Jewel Song, the Act IV Soldiers' Chorus and Act V's impassioned trio as Marguerite struggles to achieve salvation. One of the most beautiful choruses ever written for opera is in Act 4 and was much anticipated. Chorus Director William Spaulding led the Royal Opera Chorus to soaring heights. McVicar direction is filled with perfectly clever choices. Riveting from start to finish his success a fait accompli once again. We open with the old and withered Doctor Faust lamenting his doomed situation as he awaits death. American tenor Michael Fabiano plays the doctor, and it is in this sequence as the old and decrepit doctor that his acting skills excel and is most convincing. Fabiano is paired with the beautiful German soprano Mandy Fredrich who stepped in at the last minute replacing fever-stricken Irina Lungu. Her performance was brilliant and her interpretation of the angelic Marguerite as a pure soul was impressive. Fredrich’s exuberant aura had little effect on Fabiano who was mostly subdued on stage unless he sang. Fabiano is a world-class opera singer and no doubt shows his mature voice with the aria “Salut, demeure chaste et pure.” His voice has gorgeous tones and denotes the squillo opera fans adore. Erwin Schrott as Mephistopheles is spell-binding and gives one hell of a performance as the devil. Méphistophélès's demonic aria 'Le veau d'or' was to die for. Schrott’s appearance as Mephistopheles may be the apotheosis of his career. His performance is genius – dominating the stage whenever he appears. Revival Director Bruno Ravella does a marvelous job of meshing a classic story with overt lasciviousness -- some very naughty scenes. Israeli conductor Dan Ettinger led the orchestra with the perfect temperament, careful not to overshadow the production. Ettinger has a keen ability to balance the musicians supporting the performers on stage. The music was exquisite. The dancers were on point ─ versatile in tradition and the macabre. The entire cast of students, soldiers, townspeople, demons were deliciously entertaining. McVicar’s magnificent production is bawdy, risqué and one of the most thrilling opera productions of the decade. Faust opened at the Royal Opera House on April 11, 2019 and played through May 6, 2019. This production was on closing night on May 6, 2019. For More Information on Royal Opera. https://www.roh.org.uk/
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