dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Faust review at Royal Opera House, London – ‘a fascinatingly vital production’

The cast of Faust at Royal Opera House, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
by -

Due to sing Marguerite in this revival of David McVicar’s 2004 production, star German soprano Diana Damrau pulled out a week ago because of a slipped disc. Her replacement, Russian soprano Irina Lungu, pulled out on the day the revival opened with a throat infection.

Flying in to save the show, another German soprano – Mandy Fredrich – arrived late in the afternoon; and though clearly unfamiliar with the production, she got through it with just a little to spare.

The rest of the cast rallies round and give performances of panache. Michael Fabiano’s convincingly rejuvenated philosopher is cleanly and vigorously sung, with delicacy and sensitivity prominent in the mix. Erwin Schrott’s Mephistopheles – apparently also delivered with an indisposition on the first night – is unbeatable in its brilliant combination of malevolence with broad, knowing comedy.

Though Marta Fontanals-Simmons is an uneven Siebel, Stéphane Degout gives a deliberate account of Marguerite’s brother, Valentin, and Carole Wilson makes a rampant Dame Marthe.

With its sinister group of evil spirits aiding and abetting Mephistopheles in his wicked schemes, West End choreography, flamboyance and occasional outrageousness, McVicar’s show remains a fascinatingly vital piece in the hands of revival director Bruno Ravella.

Its overall premise – showing the composer himself torn between the world of the theatre and the church – may be laboured academicism, but its striking visuals are a fine match for the vivid theatricality of Gounod’s endlessly inventive score, which, even with a few moments of untidy ensemble, generally comes over well under conductor Dan Ettinger.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
A last-minute cast replacement doesn't hamper this revival of David McVicar’s vivid production
^