Faust at the Royal Opera House
A classic tale about a deal with the Devil, the story of Faust is presented in all its passionate glory as Gounod’s enduringly intriguing and captivating opera, directed by David McVicar. Combined with spirited ballet, a lavish set and outstanding chorus, the effect is spectacular.
Goethe’s original tale takes place in 16th-century Germany; here set in Second Empire (1852-70) Paris. The piece is lush and evocative with its feverish atmosphere merging religion and sexuality, lavish grandeur of high society in tension with socialist political agitation. Elegant and farcical, sublime but lewd, intelligent yet grotesque, this tragic comedy is an immensely rich, multi-faceted tapestry of human foibles, Gothic fantasy and breathtaking resplendency.
A transcendent chorus, directed by William Spaulding, accompanies superb vocals and acting by the cast – particularly tenor Michael Fabiano’s powerful portrayal of Faust and a commanding Mephisto by Erwin Schrott. The most extraordinary element of this night’s production, however, is the surreal evolution of the role of Marguerite: Anna Netrebko, the original singer, quit the part and Diana Damrau took her place. The latter then suffered a slipped disc and was replaced by Irina Lungu, who announced at the last minute that she could not go on because of flu. Finally, two hours before the show German soprano Mandy Fredrich was flown in, quickly prepped, and miraculously performed exquisitely, as if she had been made to play Marguerite.
Paule Constable’s lighting creates a haunting chiaroscuro effect, and set design by Charles Edwards is sumptuously beautiful – morphing from opulence to stark misery, representing life’s fluctuations, devastation and redemption, and the highs and lows of the human psyche – especially Faust’s.
An important component of this opera, which adds grace, humour, atmosphere and intensity to the piece, is the excellent ballet: the ethereal “witches”, sensual young dancers, pagan spirits, symbols of temptation, ladies of the night who engage in orgies with onlookers.
Faust at the Royal Opera House is a timeless treasure and a vibrant tour de force thanks to its dazzling visuals and Gounod’s remarkable music and lyrics.
Photos: Tristram Kenton
Faust is at the Royal Opera House from 11th April until 6th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.