Greece Gounod: Faust Greek National Opera, Myron Mihailides (conductor), January 2012, Megaron – The Athens Concert Hall (BM)
Greek National Opera’s new production of Faust opened this weekend and was met by enthusiasm from a long-suffering Athens opera audience, its patience severely tried by what it has been subjected to since the demise of the late Stefanos Lazaridis, one of the first artistic directors at GNO to ever be serious about bringing contemporary productions to this city, not to mention recruiting outstanding artists.
The director of this new production is choreographer Renato Zanella, director of the GNO ballet, and this is good news – his singers are not allowed to just “stand and deliver”. He chooses to let the plot unfold in an empty classroom. Against a backdrop of blackboards covered with erudite script, Faust (Eric Cutler) is tormented by the fundamental issues of life and death, love and happiness, when Mephistopheles (Tassos Apostolou) hones in on him, and before long he has signed his soul over to the devil in return for his youth.
“My approach remains at a distance from both the supernatural and the religious aspects of the libretto,” says Zanella. “Its focus is man and his weaknesses, which are at the center of the storyline.” As is Marguerite – after all, some have said that Gounod’s grand opera should really have been named after her character rather than that of her seducer. And who better to sing this role than Greece’s own Alexia Voulgaridou: she recently appeared in Hamburg’s new Faust to great acclaim, and brings an exceptional combination of vocal and acting qualities to the part (read an interview with her here: Interview with Voulgaridou.
Make sure to catch one of the remaining performances, through January 29th, – read up on the details of both casts on GNO’s website (www.nationalopera.gr) – and watch this space for a full review.