Charles Gounod: Faust
Michael Fabiano (Faust), Erwin Schrott (Méphistophélès), Irina Lungu (Marguerite), Germán E. Alcántara (Wagner), Stéphane Degout (Valentin), Marta Fontanals-Simmons (Siébel), Carole Wilson (Marthe Schwertlein), Megan Griffiths, Yasset Roldan (principal dancers), Royal Opera Chorus, William Spaulding (chorus director), orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Dan Ettinger (conductor), David McVicar (director), Charles Edwards (set designer), Brigitte Reiffestuel (costume designer), Paule Constable (lighting designer), Rhodri Huw (video director)
Recording: Royal Opera House, London, England (April 18 & 20, 2019) – 178’
Opus Arte OA 13300 (or Blu-ray BD 7285D) – Format 16:9 – Audio format LPCM 2.0 – DTS HD Master Audio – All Regions (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English – Subtitles in English, French, German, Japanese and Korean
This production of Gounod’s Faust was enthusiastically received by the Royal Opera House (ROH) audience when it premiered in 2004. McVicar’s staging, along with outstanding singers (Alagna, Gheorghiu, Terfel, Keenlyside, Koch), made it for a resounding success. Since then, this Faust was revived four times, video-captured in 2010 with the original cast, and again in 2019 with entirely different singers.
McVicar sets the action in Paris, a few decades after the creation of the opera. In this lavish staging, no expenses have been spared, nor artistic brainpower. From Act II on, the spectator is plunged, with no time to breathe, into a sulfurous, nefarious environment of debauchery, lasciviousness, with Zolian undertones, culminating in a totally demented Walpurgis Night that makes this otherwise boring ballet the most powerful moment of the production. Simply brilliant.
From a musical standpoint, we are at the ideal level of quality and homogeneity: from chorus to orchestra, from supporting roles to leads. Michael Fabiano is an ardent Faust, Irina Lungu‘s soprano is perfect for Marguerite and her acting in the final scene is truly commendable. French baritone Stéphane Degout is a genuine and stylish Valentin. His delivery of “Avant de quitter ces lieux...” is certainly one of the best musical moments, along with his tense and dramatic death scene. Marta Fontanals-Simmons’ Siébel is touching; too bad the singer is wearing such a preposterous wig. Carole Wilson in Marthe Schwertlein is colorful to perfection. Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott is impressively terrifying and sarcastic in Méphistophélès. Splendid voice, wide and electrifying. Unfortunately, his pronunciation of French leaves much to be desired.
In total compliance with the fundamentals of the work, McVicar offers a riveting direction, where eccentricity elegantly combines with authenticity. It is theatrically packed, layered, aesthetically dense, and supported by high musical quality. ROH brings the history of staging this opera to the next level. Definitely a must have DVD or Blu-Ray.