* Notes *
A new production of Faust, directed by Des McAnuff, opened at the Metropolitan Opera last night. Robert Brill's set is pleasingly spare, and the twin spiral staircases were put to cunning use. The transitions from scene to scene were clean and simple, aided by lighting designer Peter Mumford and video designer Sean Nieuwenhuis. Some of the images used were rather silly, especially the enormous red roses on the rear projection screen in Act III. The large projections of the characters heads were not flattering. Nonetheless, the moving clouds and green flames were effective in transforming the space. The costumes, by Paul Tazewell, did not appear to have a consistency to them as far as period is concerned. For instance, the chorus in Act II looked like they had wandered in from some entirely different opera. Kelly Devine's choreography was entertaining, people in lab coats spinning about and the dancing during "Le veau d'or" were particularly amusing. Overall, though it seemed McAnuff had some good ideas, the production simply seemed somewhat scattered and random.
The orchestra sounded lovely under Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who kept the tempi moving and the dynamics restrained. There were a few chaotic moments, but for the most part, the playing and singing were synchronized. The chorus was occasionally a hair behind the orchestra in Act II, but "Déposons les armes" and "Sauvée! Christ est ressuscité" were both sung solidly.
The principal cast was uneven. Michèle Losier (Siébel) sounded a bit raw, but she does have a nice brightness to her voice. Russell Braun was a serviceable Valentin, though I believe he and the flute were not exactly together in his first aria. Marina Poplavskaya did not impress as Marguerite, her high notes are ugly and her singing has no line to it, as her breath support is lacking. She does have a pleasant darkness to her voice at least. René Pape (pictured above, photograph by Ken Howard) was a convincing Méphistophélès, he moves well and the choreography suited him. Pape has a beautiful voice with a great deal of warmth. Jonas Kaufmann made for a fine, though perhaps dull, Faust. He has a gorgeous legato and perfect control. The baritonal qualities of his pretty voice came out in the last act.
* Tattling *
Because of the gala pricing of this event, the tickets were not sold out in the Family Circle, and one was unable to purchase standing room tickets at the back of the house. Nonetheless, a few standees were to be seen there.
Loud complaints were heard during the music concerning personal effects left in aisles and the kicking of seats. Someone crumpled a plastic bag during Acts II and III. At least two watch alarms were heard at each hour.