Friday, June 25, 2010

GOUNOD: Faust - Lyric Opera of Chicago

        I haven’t written here in some time; I graduated last year and subsequently curtailed my writing about music. That is about to change.

I no longer write for any publication, so the tone and nature of my reviews will be different; I will also dedicate posts to my general thoughts and feelings about performers and the music world. But I think these will be positive changes, and will certainly give me more material to work with if I have the self discipline to keep the blog updated.

        To begin, I think it is worth reproducing here a very brief piece I wrote in a hurry for a music critic contest last fall (which I was a finalist for, but did not “win” due to unforeseen circumstances). The piece is very short and does not flow well (due to word count constraints), but I believe it was the best of the bunch. You can view the archive of the contest and the subsequent firestorm here.


        Lyric’s current production of Faust is so excellent that any criticism would be nitpicking. But I must say that the opera’s Romantic sentiments are often ruined by a cynical outlook, particularly in the last act where Marguerite looks like a 19th century crack whore.

        That nit being picked, Piotr Beczala is a delight. His round, silver timbre, unerring legato, and crystalline top notes make for a stunning Faust. His ardent Salute, demeure chaste et pure is unrivalled by any current tenor.

        As a character, René Pape was very fine as Méphistophélès—debonair and oozing gravitas. Unfortunately, while the devil was pleasingly in the details, Le Veau D’or lacked his usual ringing top and caused a slight panic when he got ahead of the orchestra. Vous Qui Faites L’endormie fared better vocally, but misfired on the all-important diabolical laughter.

        As Marguerite, Ana María Martínez sings well and acts even better—particularly in the love duet—but I was left with the impression that the youthful voice of Katherine Lerner as Siébel would have been more appropriate to the Marguerite character. Lucas Meachem made for an impressive Valentin and sang his heart out in Avant de quitter ces lieu, perhaps pushing his voice a bit more than was wise, but certainly to splendid effect.

        The chorus was the best I have ever heard them, precise and powerful. Andrew Davis kept a firm hand over the orchestra and produced all the aching Romantic touches necessary to the opera.