Thursday, June 17, 2010

Further Details

John Marcher is surprised that I didn't say more about Faust, especially considering Patricia Racette's presence in the cast. Well, here goes.

I'm just surprised she took the gig at all. Marguerite is an innocent young thing, seduced and abandoned; she is girlish and easily impressed. Any soprano undertaking the role ought to have a good trill and excellent flexibility to bring off the jewel song. Racette more or less trilled last night, albeit with a big, big preparation, but the rest of the aria was a hash. I don't remember her Violetta some years ago being less than well sung, so it's possible that all that Puccini has affected her agility. Roi de Thule worked much better and was in fact extremely good. Later i the opera, though, she had pitch problems above the staff and seemed, well, not entirely accurate.

Dramatically? Racette's great roles are in the verismo repertory, if you consider Janacek to be closer in mood to verismo than any other particular stylistic school. They call for a kind of committed intensity and involvement that she excels in. The later scenes were best, because they call for more intensity, innocent young girl just isn't right for her. Among her other roles, Jenufa comes closest, but Jenufa is knowing and aware and she grows through the course of the opera. Ditto Butterfly, with her spine of steel.

What to say about the rest of the cast. Stefano Secco sang decently, if a bit monochromatically. Ditto John Relyea, but I worry about his singing per se. His voice sounds woofy at the bottom and sometimes it's hard to tell exactly what note he has landed on. He worked awfully hard inBelshazzar's Feast at SFS a season or two back, and I hope he is not overdoing it. Daniela Mack was an adorable Siebel. Brian Mulligan as Valentin was, vocally, the standout of the show for me, singing with a beautiful, open, and consistent tone. But what was with the stage direction? Why the heck did he wander around the stage bolt upright for five minutes after being stabbed repeatedly in a duel?

French opera calls less for intensity than for grace and exceptional command of the language. No one in this cast has anything like the skills of French singers trained in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They seem to all have had the ability to trill and sing runs easily and to put the words out front as the controlling aspect of singing.

And, let's face it, Faust is nothing to write home about dramatically. In 2010, a troop of soldiers fending off Satan by crossing their swords or villagers shocked, shocked by an unmarried woman's pregnancy just aren't going to make much impact. As staged, they were almost laughable.

Honestly, this opera calls out for a Regie production. And for cutting most of the interminable dialog between arias.


Henry Holland said...

And for cutting most of the interminable dialog between arias

What?!? No recitatives? With a cast with no native French speakers? Wow.

What about the ballet, did they do the whole thing or were you asleep by then? :-)

Lisa Hirsch said...

Whoops, sorry. All sung recitative. I stayed awake for the whole thing, unfortunately. What ballet? :)

Daniel Wolf said...

Maybe they just chose the wrong Faust? Frankfurt just began a new production of the Berlioz Damnation of Faust and it's a great evening.

Lisa Hirsch said...

We had Damnation here a few years ago, one of the few productions I've missed that I REALLY wanted to see. I'm still kicking myself! But David Gockley isn't much into challenging or unusual repertory, alas.