Faust, Royal Opera House, London June 2004
Angela Gheorghiu & Roberto Alagna in Faust
Royal Opera House, London 2004
Superstars of opera prove devilishly good, The Evening Standard, 14 June 2004
Faust - Royal Opera House, The Guardian, 14 June 2004
Faust Covent Garden, Financial Times, 14 June, 2004
Faust, The Times, 14 June 2004
Royal Opera scores another bull's-eye, The Daily Telegraph, 14 June 2004
Spectacular reinvention of a 19th-century warhorse, The Independent, 12 June 2004
"Faust'' Worth Selling A Soul For, The Wall Street Journal Europe, 18 June 2004
Faust - dated kitsch is depressing, The Sunday Times, 20 June 2004
Faust, Royal Opera House [excerpt], Opera News, Vol 69, No. 3, September 2004
Faust - Royal Opera House, London
Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 14 June 2004
The Faust legend has been variously interpreted as a metaphor for the artist's sacrifice of integrity for the sake of creativity, and as emblematic of a hedonistic society sliding towards disaster. David McVicar's new production of Gounod's opera takes both ideas as its starting point, linking the work to its composer's biography and relocating it to the final days of the decadent Second Empire, and its subsequent collapse in the Franco-Prussian war.
Throughout his life, Gounod was torn between the theatre and the priesthood. Charles Edwards' sets are consequently dominated by models of a box from the Paris Opéra and the organ loft of Notre Dame, and we first find Roberto Alagna's Faust, dressed as the ageing composer, dithering between the two. Bryn Terfel's Mephistopheles is part demon, part stage manager, restoring Faust's lost youth in front of a tatty dressing-room mirror.
What follows begins wittily enough as a tour through Second Empire culture. A crucifix turns into a Baudelairean altar of evil as Mephistopheles conjures wine from Christ's stigmata. Angela Gheorghiu's Marguérite proves to be Manet's famous Follies Bergères barmaid, whom Faust seduces in a Zola-esque garret, while Della Jones's Marthe plies Mephistopheles with absinthe in the street.
It gets nasty, however. Faust declines into opium addiction as the shattered bodies of Franco-Prussian war casualties fill the stage. The Walpurgisnacht scene, over which Terfel presides in drag, begins as a parody of Giselle, but rapidly disintegrates into an orgy of sadism and rape.
The performances are excellent. Terfel sings with panache and Gheorghiu, unlike most Marguérites, is capable of encompassing both the lyricism of the love scenes and the horror of her subsequent descent into insanity. The real revelation, however, is Alagna, who gives the performance of a lifetime, physically daring - he celebrates Faust's new-found youth by cartwheeling round the stage - and vocally and dramatically responsive to every psychological shift. Only Antonio Pappano's overly Italianate conducting disappoints. Funny, erotic and disturbing by turns, Faust makes for a compelling evening.
Faust Covent Garden, London
Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 14 June, 2004
It is often remarked that Goethe would not have recognised his Faustfrom the opera Gounod made out of it.
If he gets good satellite reception wherever he is now and is thinking of tuning in to the live BBC2 television relay of this production, he should be warned - there are one or two extra horrors in store.
It is 30 years since the last production of Faust at the Royal Opera House and clearly time for a new one. That pastel-paint tableau of Marguerite floating up to heaven on a little chariot of clouds really would not do in 2004.
Some imaginative productions have been seen in the UK since then, including one that gave the opera the Atkins diet treatment by going back to the slim and trim original version with spoken dialogue and another from eastern Europe that turned it into a brilliant piece of theatre set in a circus with Méphistophélès as the ringmaster.
Nothing so forward-looking happens here. The Royal Opera has set its sights on a grand night out at the opera - the sort that kept Fausttop of the bill for so many decades, featuring a big-house production, the traditional sung recitatives, the ballet added in 1869 and a minor constellation of star singers.
With so many big egos on board somebody had to keep the ship on an even keel and the Royal Opera's music director, Antonio Pappano, is probably the only person who could bring this cast safely to port.
Where other conductors tend to get bogged down in the French repertoire, he was in his element, making Gounod's music sparkle with effervescence, supported at every point by an orchestra and chorus on their best form.
Pappano has probably done nothing better in his first two seasons.
Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna, his longtime colleagues on a series of opera recordings, are back with him as a team, ideally cast as Marguerite and Faust.
Gheorghiu was in gleaming voice, looked just slightly odd in Marguerite's blond-as-Heidi wig, and sang with thrilling abandon even where she was doing a duet with the prompter.
Alagna is always at his best in French opera and his tenor was locked firmly in his grip - no longer quite the well-cushioned sound it was when he first came to Covent Garden, but ringing out proudly on Faust's top notes.
It was a wicked idea to get the Royal Opera's Wotan-in-waiting to practise his royal duties as king of the underworld. Bryn Terfel made a predictably prodigious Méphistophélès with voice and character to spare, not the kind to blush at going through with one of the producer's more embarrassing ideas.
Simon Keenlyside sang a stronger-than-usual, man-of-war Valentin, every note firm and true.
Young bass Matthew Rose was an impressive Wagner, Sophie Koch a bright-eyed Siébel, though lamed by an exaggerated stage limp, and Della Jones made Marthe a caricature of the harridan lady next door, winning most of the evening's laughs in the process.
This was potentially a fabulous cast. All a producer needed was a spark of inspiration off the devil's fiery trident.
Unfortunately David McVicar has lost his touch. The idea of a Faust set in the France of Gounod's declining years was not a bad one, and the production has had some money spent on it, but no two scenes seemed able to maintain the same tone.
A raucous visit to the "Cabaret L'Enfer" seething with can-can girls in fishnet stockings and black boots promised to shake the opera out of its complacency, but that was followed by a courting scene for Marguerite and Faust as dusty as anything from the 1950s.
The crucial confrontation of good and evil in the church fell flat.
Then the Walpurgisnacht ballet went over the top with Terfel's Méphistophélès throwing off his black cape to reveal himself in drag, dolled up as Queen Victoria's rugby half-back twin sister in tiara and sequined black evening-dress. We were not amused.
As well as the television relay there is a live Radio 3 broadcast and a free showing on the big screen in the piazza at Covent Garden, all next Saturday, so everybody who is interested will be able to weigh up the conflicting merits of this prestigious Faust.
Enjoy the singing and to Hell with the rest.
Robert Thicknesse, The Times, 14 June 2004
So expensive, and yet so cheap. Welcome to International Opera, where the universe's most rarefied stars jet in, the prompter helping out when they forget if it's Tosca or Traviata. David McVicar is the ideal director, a man platonically disengaged from the tiresome specifics of the art form.
That muffled squawk during the ballet was me completing my bingo sheet of McVicarisms black cathedral interior, smoke and spotlights, cavorting topless gayboys, transvestism, chick-on-chick action . . . Scorning to confront Gounod's ineffably bourgeois Faust, McVicar gives us instead a tour d'horizon of the big musical, scattering bits of Phantom, Les Mis, An American in Paris and Hello, Dolly! through his idea-free zone. He has a sniffy disdain for Gounod's mercantile masterpiece and any audience vulgar enough to like it. His Faust is about a cheap deal cut by Heaven and Hell for the possession of a pair of souls, but since he's far too sophisticated to believe in any of that stuff, he chucks in a war-is-hell scene (Franco-Prussian variety) to shore up his liberal credentials.
The idea of Faust corrupting Marguerite is obviously a no-no in this knowing world. Instead she is a material girl in a blonde wig strolling through the Cabaret l'Enfer. Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna are performers who have taken glossy blandness to its lucrative apogee. From Faust's staggering dotard to Marguerite unwrapping her jewels like just another parcel from Cartier, to colour-by-numbers love duet, not for a moment do these two stray from the path of convention.
They are, naturally, perfectly easy to listen to, Gheorghiu spinning out a perfect, creamy skein of sound, but your eyes and attention skitter away from them if there's anything else to look at, even Bryn Terfel and Della Jones as Mephistopheles and Marthe making ham in the corner.
Ah, Bryn. More St Bernard in cavalier fig than Prince of Darkness, he is still a dream, irrupting from the floorboards and dragging some humour and drama up with him. He is all coarse, swaggering style, even in a dress yes, that's right, a dress.
Simon Keenlyside is there as Marguerite's doomed brother Valentin, dignifying everything he touches and, as he dies cursing his sister, bringing a worrying hint that some of this might actually matter.
Moving swiftly on, McVicar will have none of that. It's all style some quite classy and enjoyable, such as the church scene and the terrific ballet, choreographed by Michael Keegan-Dolan, rerunning the story in nightmare form for Faust's edification.
Antonio Pappano conducts the Royal Opera House Orchestra prettily. For the rest, it's perfectly mediocre, perfectly empty, perfectly whorish.
Royal Opera scores another bull's-eye
Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph, 14 June 2004
Two miracles at Covent Garden. The first is that all four stars of this eagerly anticipated new production of Gounod's Faust made it to the opening night and gave exciting, if flawed, performances that justified their reputations.
The second is that, following Richard Jones's enthralling version of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in April, the Royal Opera scores another bull's-eye with David McVicar's gorgeous and intelligent staging of a Victorian warhorse unjustly derided by the modernists. For sheer eye-popping theatricality, this is a spectacle that outdoes anything you'll see in the West End.
Charles Edwards's wonderful designs set the action in a space that combines elements of a Gothic revival church with the interior of Garnier's opera house and the back streets of pre-Haussmann Paris. This imaginatively reflects the world that Gounod's music inhabits, and McVicar peoples it with sharply-focused characters and a vivid sense of the hypocritical values that underpin it. In a subtle final image, a sober-suited God tips Mephistopheles the wink - this is a tragedy in which their heaven-and-hell morals are all too agreeably complicit.
Just as importantly, the production is meticulously rehearsed and executed, with flawless scene changes, exquisite lighting, magical pantomime effects, and the brilliantly witty transformation of the Walpurgis-night orgy into a nightmare pastiche of Giselle overrun by priapic members of the Jockey Club. Bravo, McVicar.
As Marguerite, Angela Gheorghiu makes some ravishing velvet noises and flings herself into the role with passion. But there was too much inaccuracy and sloppiness in her singing (she was heavily prompted), and her French is rubbish. Roberto Alagna's Faust was marred by patches of bellowing and top notes sustained to the point of vulgarity. Some softer, easier phrases were beautifully done, however, and he, too, acted enthusiastically.
Bryn Terfel's Mephistopheles was all the better for being so understated - a little rough in the first two acts, perhaps, but chillingly authoritative in the latter part of the opera. His dragged-up appearance as the Comtesse de Castiglione in the ballet was a show-stopper.
As Valentin, Simon Keenlyside sang "Avant de quitter" too aggressively for my taste, but provided an electrifying death scene. I wasn't taken by Sophie Koch's gracelessly sung Siebel, but Matthew Rose made his mark as Wagner. The chorus fulfilled its major role magnificently.
Antonio Pappano's fresh, buoyant and affectionate conducting inspired the orchestra to pellucid playing, putting paid to Gounod's undeserved reputation for lachrymose simpering.
All performances are sold out, but don't despair if you can't queue for the seats released on the day, because BBC2 will broadcast the production live on June 19. One way or another, don't miss this fabulous show.
Spectacular reinvention of a 19th-century warhorse
Robert Maycock, The Independent, 12 June 2004
If you knew that Charles Gounod's Faust was showing up at the Royal Opera for the first time in 18 years, and that the leading roles were going to be another on-stage love affair between the public's favourite husband and wife duo, Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu, you'd be ready for a safe deferential production to hold them like a crown bearing the jewels. If you then heard news that the night's sensation was the ballet in act five, you'd think the reporter was mad, mischievous or just ignorant. But it happened.
The superstar couple sang their hearts out and even managed to act passably enough to take their place, along with the howling, biting, sword-swinging, sexually aggressive dancers as two of the strengths in director David McVicar's spectacular reinvention of a 19th century war-horse with a dodgy reputation.
Surprisingly for such a popular and successful work, this was only the company's second production since 1938. It seems to be musicians who thought it unfashionable, along with a disdain for its treatment of the love element in Goethe's fable at the expense of its philosophy.
The public appetite for it has lasted and no wonder. The second and third acts present a dazzling sequence of well-characterised arias.
Among the most stylish cast members was Simon Keenlyside as Valentin, an ungrateful role with a mean spirit, but before that emerges, a suave and stirring aria which he sang with aplomb.
Bryn Terfel in a bewildering succession of suits from cartoon cavalier to full drag, gave Mephistopheles a believable, domineering menace, without compromising the splendour of his voice.
Sophie Koch made a fetching moment of Siebel's exquisite number. And then the two big draws: Alagna pushing uncomfortably hard at first but achieving a kind of elegance as well as energy, Gheorghiu eloquent and fluent from the start, the "Jewel Song" supple and eager rather than flashy.
McVicar's rethink started by moving the action to Second Empire Paris. The waltz was danced like a cancan in Hell's Cabaret. Then in the later acts, the vision turned dark.
The seamy underbelly of glitzy Paris emerged as the Devil took over Faust's soul. Two cruel humiliations of Marguerite were done with harrowing directness. For her redemption, she was summoned by a God who appeared in the flesh like a banker with angel's wings.
And that ballet. Faust, successively degraded, was now injecting drugs. An episode that is usually slightly ridiculous turned into a nightmare vision of, perhaps, what the ballet girls really had to do for the ogling gentlemen.
Tricky, yes, but a searing 10 minutes that haunts the imagination long after.
Superstars of opera prove devilishly good
Fiona Maddocks, The Evening Standard, 14 June 2004
The thunderous applause was unequivocal. The Royal Opera's annual starry production, this year David McVicar's new staging of Gounod's Faust, had hit the mark.
Out had come bicycles and children, semi-naked tumblers and dancing demons, superbly drilled tricolorwaving crowds and an imposing Cabaret-cum-Phantom set by Charles Edwards.
Without superstars and flamboyance, Faust lapses into a mawkish mixture of depravity and religiosity from which even the delicious French melodies, vintage 1863, cannot save it. This is one reason it hasn't been seen at Covent Garden for 18 years.
Bring on Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu (can we now drop the opera's Posh 'n' Becks soubriquet? They have more combined talent and far fewer tattoos) plus Bryn Terfel in diabolical black spangly drag and the work is improbably elevated to near masterpiece.
Alagna exuded energy in the title role. As the old Faust - here suggesting Gounod himself - he conveyed real depressive nihilism and quivering decay. On trading his soul for a second youth, he gyrated spryly across the stage and won gasps for his cartwheeling. Not bad for a 40-year-old.
But his voice is not improving: thrilling at its soaring best, there were patchy moments when he had to yank himself up to those tenorial top notes.
Once there, he held on for dear life.
Terfel brought robustness and deadly charm to his first Mephistopheles but seemed uncharacteristically veiled in vocal resonance. Yet even in momentary second gear, he lights up any performance. Simon Keenlyside (Valentin) sang his heartrending Avant de Quitter ces Lieux, the best aria in the opera, with burning lyricism. Sophie Koch's Siebel was fresh and engaging. As Marguerite, Angela Gheorghiu was in her element, despite being got up like the blonde girl in Manet's Bar at the Folies Bergeres. Her entire performance was exhilarating, her celebrated Jewel Song taut, expressive, girlish, sluttish, technically impeccable.
You could sense the rapport between cast, musicians and conductor. In Marguerite's farewell Antonio Pappano drew a pianissimo from the players so hushed that the audience seemed to stop breathing in order to hear. What other opera orchestra could play like that?
Terry Edwards, retiring this season as chorus director, will sign off with his team at their brilliant best. Even the ballet, daringly ironic and nastily ghoulish, was for once tolerable. See it free in Covent Garden piazza next Saturday or live on BBC2; a fine night in or out.
"Faust'' Worth Selling A Soul For
Paul Levy, The Wall Street Journal Europe, 18 June 2004
Because of its stellar cast of Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu, Bryn Terfel, Simon Keenlyside, Della Jones and Sophie Koch, David McVicar''s stupendous Royal Opera production of Charles Gounod''s "Faust" has been sold out for a long time. But this is opera at its grandest and best, and it is worth haunting the box office for day tickets, returns or standing room. And there is good news for the ticketless: Saturday''s performance (which will start at 6 p.m. local time) will be broadcast live on a big screen in Covent Garden Piazza, as well as on BBC2 and BBC Radio 3. Even better, the production will be revived for eight performances in October, with a different but equally exciting cast. Charles Edwards''s sets and Brigitte Reiffenstuel''s costumes set the piece in 19th- century Paris, with what is either the construction site or the ruins of the Paris Opera on one side of the stage, and a church organ loft on the other. Many of the costumes are from familiar paintings of the era -- when Marguerite stands on her balcony, she calls to mindManet''s woman at the bar of the Folies Bergere. The grandeur of the sets solves the big dramatic problem of the first two scenes, normally (and drearily) staged in Faust''s book-strewn study and a bare town square. But this visual treatment also resolves the biggest problem of all.
The plot is simple -- an aging scholar sells his soul to the devil in exchange for the return of his youth and sensual pleasures. A modern secular audience has no difficulty believing in Faust''s behavior. But what is in it for the devil? Without the theology, it is hard to comprehend emotionally why the devil wants or needs Faust''s soul. The beauty of this production (and Mr. Terfel''s performance as Mephistopheles) is that it gives the devil his due motivation. Satan is an old rogue -- and an old ham, a mischief-maker who enjoys watching the results of his interfering experiments. As he says later, the opera-house set is his empire, the stage his domain. His box of tricks is a theatrical trunk. It is no surprise when the frail Faust, bending over it, sheds his cloak, glasses, gray beard and wig, and bounds up as a virile, young, cartwheel-turning Faust. Mr. Alagna was once a gymnast, and I was a little more impressed by his stunts than by his high-Cs. I also was impressed by his acting. Mr. Alagna has been wooden in several past roles, but he makes a convincing old man.
Ms. Gheorghiu is a touching Marguerite, singing the role with warmth and color and acting so commandingly that at several show-stopping moments, the audience knew better than to break the tension by applauding. Even so, Mr. Terfel acted and sang them off the stage. His is a performance that won''t be forgotten by those privileged to see it. His mere stage presence is electrifying. He stared intently at Faust while they were on stage together; he had only to move one sinister centimeter to make you shudder. Though the part lies a little low for his voice, Mr. Terfel is capable of modulating from a sung sigh to the crack of thunder, with no loss of control or beauty. (In the revival, Mephistopheles will be sung by Mr. Terfel''s only possible rival, John Tomlinson.) Luxury casting has the principals supported by Mr. Keenlyside, singing gorgeously and doing his own stunts, as Marguerite''s soldier brother Valentin; Ms. Koch, lyrical in the trouser-role as her local suitor, Siebel; and Ms. Jones as her randy neighbor.
To gild the lily, Mr. McVicar and Michael Keegan-Dolan (choreographer for Dublin''s Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre) have turned the Act V ballet, usually just a divertissement, into a chillingly intrinsic part of the plot. At the moment in the ballet when the apparitions of Cleopatra, Helen of Troy and two Eastern beauty queens are revealed beside Mephistopheles, Mr. Terfel slips off his hooded cloak and is revealed in black satin ball-gowned full drag. The ballerinas, barefoot but in correct 19th-century white costumes, are dancing part of "Giselle." Its plot involves jilted women, and when the prima ballerina appears, she is shockingly pregnant -- just like the abandoned, condemned Marguerite. When the ballerinas shouted curses over the music, it was enough to make audience members feel faint. Antonio Pappano, the ROH''s music director, conducted an orchestra at the top of its form, and at the curtain calls made a gesture -- unique in my experience -- of bringing up the chorus director, Terry Edwards. Indeed, this was the Royal Opera chorus''s finest hour, their dynamic contrasts so dramatic that their quietest passages were hardly more than a heart-tugging tuneful whisper.
Faust - dated kitsch is depressing
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 20 June 2004
There is a long-held view of Faust one I don't share that Gounod's opera is a heap of meretricious, sanctimonious Victorian garbage. Wagner called it "musique de cocottes" (whores' music), and his acolytes have generally followed suit. Bernard Shaw, the self-proclaimed "perfect Wagnerite", derided New York's Metropolitan Opera House which opened with this opera in 1883 and revived it incessantly as the Faustspielhaus (a clever pun on the Wagner shrine, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus). Lofty critics have invariably snorted "soft porn", while the public has rejoiced in some of the best tunes ever written for the theatre. Faust's celebrated Salut! Demeure, chaste et pure (known to older British gramophiles as All hail thou dwelling, pure and lowly), Valentin's solo, Avant de quitter ces lieux, Marguérite's Jewel Song, Mephisto's "Laughing" serenade, the rumbustious Soldiers' Chorus every one still an astonishing "hit".
Musically, at least, the Royal Opera hits the jackpot with its star-studded new production. Antonio Pappano and his ROH orchestra make magic of Gounod's insistently memorable melodies and his evocative orchestration the usually cut Act IV ballet interlude is restored, and it's a treat to hear it delivered with such elegance, panache and brio and the management has opened its chequebook wide to field a cast that few international houses could equal today. Roberto Alagna is the youth-seeking doctor, his wife, Angela Gheorghiu, the ingénue victim of his lust, Marguérite, Bryn Terfel their diabolical nemesis, Méphistophélès, and Simon Keenlyside Valentin. It is a glamorous night at Covent Garden, recalling the galactic line-ups of the Solti and (early) Colin Davis eras in Bow Street. Tickets, needless to say, are like gold dust, but for those unable to get them, the house opened its doors to the cameras last night for a live relay on both television and the big screen on the piazza.
At the premiere (June 11), the audience erupted after most of the singers had delivered their hit numbers and, apart from one solitary boo after the ballet a tasteless parody of the "white act" of Adolphe Adam's ballet Giselle, in which Marguérite, pregnant by Faust, is manhandled by her companions, who also dig up the body of her dead brother, Valentin seemed delighted with David McVicar's production. I wish I could share their enthusiasm. McVicar's vision of Faust's Walpurgisnacht is, admittedly, the nadir of an evening of hideously dated theatrical kitsch, but it's hard to see how Faust will survive in revival unless the ROH can attract patrons who like their Faust vulgarised as a low-budget Phantom of the Opera.
McVicar's new-found penchant for cheap spectacle and moth-eaten operatic ham is particularly depressing when one considers his brilliantly austere and focused work for Opera North (Sweeney Todd), Scottish Opera (Idomeneo) and ENO (The Rape of Lucretia). With an evidently lavish budget, he encourages his designers, Charles Edwards (sets) and Brigitte Reiffenstuelm (costumes), to throw plenty of arresting visual ideas at Faust, but they are indiscriminately applied. Some strike the mark I loved the sight of Terfel presiding over the Walpurgisnacht in tiara and black lamé ball-gown drag but mostly, it is desperate overkill: scantily clad tumblers hogging the Kermesse scene, the delicious waltz choreographed as a tacky nightclub routine, with a chorus line wiggling their bums synchronically, and, above all, the vile Act IV ballet. Gounod's opera sinks under the weight of this ghastly fiesta of Grand Guignol camp.
At least there is the music, conducted with grace and elemental vigour, and the singing is pretty terrific, although Alagna's tone now sounds grey and dry (not inappropriate for the prologue, when Faust appears as a wizened old man). But he grows in vocal vigour and his French is wonderfully clear and poetic, a luxurious rarity today. He may not be subtle, but he hits most of the G-for-Gounod spots. Gheorghiu is an unlikely innocent she looks like a tart in her appearance at McVicar's Cabaret Enfer and her dirty-girl, Carmen voice sounds wrong for the Jewel Song and Garden duet, but she comes into her own, soaring with quasi-religious ecstasy in the Prison trio. Terfel is Terfel, which means his Mephisto is almost a carbon copy of his Don Giovanni, charismatic but coarse-grained, and he lacks ideally resonant bass notes. Keenlyside is the vocal and histrionic star of the show as Valentin a superb performance. Sophie Koch sings nicely as Siébel, but is saddled by McVicar, for some inexplicable reason, with a wooden leg (and a bicycle!). C'est une idée but not a very good one. Della Jones rasps gamely as the brothel madam, Marthe Schwerlein (Marguérite's chaperone, or pimp, here).
Faust, Royal Opera House [excerpt]
George Hall, Opera News, Vol 69, No. 3, September 2004
[...] Admittedly it had the kind of cast that sends people clicking to the online booking page. Roberto Alagna sang the title role. French opera seems to suit him better than anything else, and he connected impressively with the text and the lively physicality of the staging. He was in sumptuous voice, crowning "Salut! demeure" with an immaculate top C that he held, quite justifiably, for a few transcendent seconds. He may not have the grace and finesse of (say) Alfredo Kraus in this role, but he has everything else. His wife, Angela Gheorghiu, sang Marguerite. In one of the few truly dubious parts of the production, she was first accosted by Faust in a clearly sex-centered bar (the "Cabaret L'Enfer"), replete with presumably multi-skilled dancing girls who cavorted their way though the famous waltz to the delight of some racy customers. It wasn't really demure village-maiden territory. But though her tone colors are probably more at home in the verismo repertory, she fined down her fruity, glamorous timbre into something more delicate and opalescent, and the results were excellent. Few Marguerites who can manage the filigree of the Jewel Song can also find the increasing power needed for the steadily rising demands of the final trio. And Gheorghiu provided both.[...]
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