Saturday, February 03, 2007

Faust at the Canadian Opera Company

I attended last night’s COC production of Faust by Charles Gounod. The omnipresent JohnTerauds of the Toronto Star, who appears to be the last of the classical music review dinosaurs in a major Canadian newspaper, reviewed it unfavourably.

I too was disappointed by the production, although I disagree with him about the production getting in the way – if anything, Nicholas Muni’s production was the only bright spot in an otherwise mediocre effort by the COC. Moreover, I found the balance, both within the orchestra and between the orchestra and the singers, very poor.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin got some fire out of the orchestra, especially during the use of Gounod’s ballet music for Faust as entr'actes, but even then, much of the punch was lost because the lines were not always clear.

As I mentioned, the production itself was very good, with what I would call a kind of burlesque feel, taking burlesque in its historical sense and not its current incarnation. The singers and chorus were costumed firmly in the 19th Century, but the set itself was spartan and effieciently deployed to support what is a dramatically weak opera.

Can it be that the COC still can’t do two really strong productions at the same time? Seems so, because the reviews for Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk appear to be very positive (I won’t see it until the 15th).

Let's hope I'm wrong.


One of the odd things about seeing Faust is the fact that it was not too long ago when Faust dominated the operatic stage. Why did it fall from favour? Why does something as awful as Tosca or Il Trovatore seem to pack them in but many other fine works are never seen again? Why was Faust so popular to begin with?

These are some of the kinds of questions that preoccupy me, and hopefully you. That is, if I can make reading about them compelling enough. I know I'm not there yet, but I'm looking forward to the task!

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