Newbury and His Colleagues Deliver a Riveting Faust

07/03/2018

Gounod, Faust: Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra of Lyric Opera of Chicago / Emmanuel Villaume (conductor), Chicago. 3.3.2018. (JLZ)

 The cast of Gounod's Faust (Photo: Cory Weaver)

The cast of Gounod’s Faust (c) Cory Weaver

Cast:

Faust – Benjamin Bernheim
Méphistophélès – Christian Van Horn
Marguerite – Ailyn Pérez
Valentin – Edward Parks
Siébel – Annie Rosen
Marthe – Jill Grove
Wagner – Emmett O’Hanlon

Production:

Director – Kevin Newbury
Production Designer – John Frame
Set and Costume Designer – Vita Tzykun
Lighting Designer – Duane Schuler
Projection Designer – David Adam Moore
Chorus Master – Michael Black

While the Faust story is captured in numerous musical works, Gounod’s version still grips the imagination because of productions like the new one presented at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

The staging by John Frame, with sets and costumes by Vita Tzykun, offered a post-modern take on the libretto, with computer screens playing videos of the Faust story, and costumes that reflected the score’s period, except for the twentieth-century attire for Faust and Méphistophélès. These disparate elements blended well to create the colorful setting, enhanced by carefully conceived projections by David Adam Moore.

The results were engaging, enhanced by the masterful direction of Kevin Newbury, whose deft hand brought out the dramatic moments with appropriate skill. His efforts were bolstered by Emmanuel Villaume’s outstanding conducting, giving shape and focus to the score. Villaume’s expert hand was evident in the carefully-voiced sonorities, blending of the brass and percussion, and subtleties that made set pieces like the military marches and the village dances sound fresh and exciting. More than that, Villaume supported the solo voices with fine attention to the stage, as well as care with the details, such as his tasteful stretching of measures and passages to accentuate lyricism.

As Faust, Benjamin Bernheim’s strong tenor offered a fine sense of pitch and even tone, and intense delivery when moments required it. At the end of Act I, his transformation was audible, adding to the dramatic trajectory. In the second act, though, Bernheim was at times unsubtle in his romantic moments.

As Marguerite, American soprano Ailyn Pérez made her Lyric stage debut, following her appearance in the 2010–11 ‘Celebrating Placido’ concert. Her interpretation of the famous ‘King of Thule’ ballad was nicely intimate, and she brought similar delicacy to the subsequent ‘Jewel Song’. In the latter, she showed musical and dramatic acumen in the quieter passages reflecting her character’s wonder at the treasure in her hands. Yet some of the more exuberant passages would have benefited from the clarity that is within her abilities. In the fourth act, the extended scene in which the bereft Marguerite expresses anxiety about her relationship with Faust was persuasive, as was the church scene with Mephistopheles, which climaxed with him yanking her baby away.

Christian Van Horn was outstanding as Méphistophélès. His deep, articulate bass fit the role to perfection. The ‘Calf of Gold’ aria was a tour de force, followed by an authoritative transition to the next scene. His keen gestures matched his musical finesse as if the role were created for him. Van Horn gave the Act II asides full attention, making the scenes with Jill Grove (as Martha) indelible. Further, his intensity propelled the last-act trio to its conclusion, with his judgment of Faust unequivocally stated.

The chorus showed assurance and a fine blend, with rich, warm colors in the famous Act II waltz. In the fourth act, the singers conveyed emotions appropriate for soldiers returning from a clearly fruitless war. Newbury directed the scene with Valentin and Faust with remarkable skill. As Valentin, Edward Parks gave his all in his challenges to Faust, a sequence that benefited from the chorus’s horrified reaction.

Shared with the Portland Opera, this production warrants attention for the ways in which it offers modern audiences an unusual and relevant staging of this familiar work. The details that Frame and his collaborators brought would make it worth seeing again, to fully grasp the many nuances.

James L. Zychowicz

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 CBSO at Symphony Hall, Birmingham __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 BBC NOW in Cardiff and Swansea __________________________________
  • NEW! The Twelfth English Music Festival Coming Soon in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Kenneth MacMillan’s The Sleeping Beauty at the London Coliseum in June __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Opera in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018/19 Birmingham Classical Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe Star in The King and I at the London Palladium __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 BBC Proms __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) 2018 Celebrates its Eighth Year __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Chess at the London Coliseum from 26 April for 5 Weeks __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Abandoned Liszt Opera Sardanapalo Premieres in Weimar in August __________________________________
  • NEW! THE TENOR RUSSELL THOMAS IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! RAFAL BLECHACZ IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! The London Orchestra Project’s Metamorphosen on 27 May at LSO St Luke’s __________________________________
  • NEW! MARKUS POSCHNER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! A First Charity Classical Music Concert at Finchcocks on 27 May __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month