Götterdämmerung at LA Opera
La Fanciulla at SF Opera

Faust at SF Opera

Brian Mulligan (Valentin) and John Relyea (Méphistophélès), photo by Cory Weaver * Notes * 
Gounod's Faust opened at San Francisco Opera last weekend. I had briefly entertained the idea of driving back from Southern California where I was seeing LA Opera's Ring for this, but decided it would be too disruptive to both my schedule and state of mind. Even at Tuesday night's performance, it was a bit odd to have left the world of Wagner for this frilly, pretty piece. Robert Perdziola's production, directed here by Jose Maria Condemi, is straightforward, with attractive sets and amusing surprises as far as staging. The chorus was not handled with particular deftness. The chorus did not sound precisely together, and the way the entrances and exits were choreographed in Act I Scene 2 did not help. However, the off stage choral singing "Sauvée! Christ est ressuscité" was lovely, and the playing was especially fine here too. Maurizio Benini had the orchestra sounding appropriately frothy and nice, and perhaps a bit hazy.

As usual, Catherine Cook acted the comic role of Marthe convincingly. Current Adler Fellow Austin Kness sounded boyish, and Daniela Mack even more so as Siébel. Although Mack's vibrato could be a bit much, her "Faites-lui mes aveux" came off well. Baritone Brian Mulligan sounded absolutely wonderful as Valentin, his "O Sainte Medaille" was the highlight of Act I, and his music at the end of Act IV was poignant. John Relyea sleekly embodied Méphistophélès, his voice remains very rich, and his acting is strong. On the other hand, Patricia Racette was less persuasive as Marguerite, somehow all her wobbling did not project youth or naïveté. Her Jewel Song bordered on the grotesque, though her rendition of "Il était un roi de Thulé" was less unsightly. Racette seems more believable as a fallen women, so by the end her Marguerite, crazed and in despair, was moving. Stefano Secco was a pleasant enough Faust, his voice has volume without roughness. Something about the way he hits the high notes gave me the sensation of watching someone hoisting a sail with great effort.

* Tattling * 
Standing room was not crowded, and there was not much to say about the audience in Act I. After the first intermission I was given a ticket for the first row of the Grand Tier, on the aisle but near the center. Talking aloud was heard from a certain person in A 101, but in my immediate vicinity, the audience was quiet.