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Faust review at Royal Opera House London

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The Royal Opera’s season opens with Gounod’s classic of good and evil, which comes up fresh as paint in Emma Wee’s revival of McVicar’s 2004 production. Liberties may be taken with the original – in terms of Faust himself resembling the composer, torn between the theatre and the church, and the action transferred to a run-down Paris of the Franco-Prussian war period – but it works infallibly as music theatre. Many scenes, such as Gounod’s village fair turned into a raunchy cabaret, could transfer easily to a hit musical, while choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan’s perverse reworking of the Giselle story for the Walpurgis Night ballet is as brilliant as it is disturbing.

Gounod’s varied and vivid score is well served. Conductor Maurizio Benini realises its huge theatrical potential and the chorus has a magnificent night. Polish tenor Piotr Beczala’s singing of the title role is wonderful, delivered in a constant stream of golden tone. Angela Gheorghiu may lack spontaneity and credible modesty as Marguerite but she sings much of it with individuality and imagination. The young Bulgarian bass Orlin Anastassov’s Mephistopheles has some distance to go in claiming the full possibilities of his half-sinister, half-comic demon but he sings it presentably.

Memorable are Russell Braun’s generous-voiced, dramatically intense Valentin and Liora Grodnikaite’s touching and boyish Siebel, while Della Jones finds a great deal in Dame Marthe. All in all, a striking realisation of one of opera’s great warhorses.

Production Information

Royal Opera House, London, September 15, 18, 22, 25, 27, 29

Composer
Gounod
Director
David McVicar
Producer
Royal Opera
Cast includes
Piotr Beczala, Angela Gheorghiu, Orlin Anastassov, Russell Braun
Running time
3hrs 25mins

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