Saturday, January 28, 2012


I've been on the town.

There was the Met HD Faust at the local. And not bad at all it was. The seats are comfortable, the crowd small and predictable, and the sound satisfactory, if not great. The orchestra seemed to come forward from the sound stage a small way, but the voices were trapped and sitting back behind the screen. I guess it was the mixing. And as for speakers, consider me spoilt. (By the way, K is back from CES and Cal-I-forn-I-ay on Monday, and I think I've blown up a tweeter in the country; timing will be everything when I break that news.)

There was Jonas Kaufmann, handsome dark voiced tenor-de-jour; René Pape, oozing personality in the Méphistophélés role for which he is well famous; an attractively frail bewildered Marina Poplavskaya as the now-you''ll-think-I'm-awful-in-the-morning and don't tell-my-brother-about-the-baby Marguerite; and a terrific performance from Russell Braun as da brother.

The real star was the little giant in the pit: the completely amazing Yannick Néset-Séguin. The orchestra was superb and it was all so ... so French. I envy Philadelphia. The production I didn't care for - nuclear physicist, Fat-Boy the work of the devil of course (nice try but I'd leave that commentary in the hands of Mr Adams), although the factory scaffolding set had its moments of menace with everyone caught in its cold steeliness. And yes, it was just a dream, with 'dopplegänging'. Well, yes it is a dream, but that's not the way it works. Barbara Willis Sweete's handling of the filming and editing was restrained, with more long shots, and quite beautiful in parts, and that was a pleasant surprise.

It began of course in the Auerbach's Keller in Leipzig where Goethe and the lads drank and rumbled. It's now a popular touristy spot ...

... complete with the legendary magician riding the barrel out,

and murals tell Goethe's story (perspective can be seen in the first photograph above).

Here's Jonas Kaufmann's (quite dark, germanic, and a little pushed but very effective) "Salut, demeure chaste et pure ..."

And now, the fabulous Franco Corelli for how the Italians do it (and Bonynge was much more a natural in the French repertoire)

Finally, Georges Thill flies the tricolour for the home team

More Out and About and dopplegänging tomorrow ...


Herringbone said...

Faust reminds me to "seek knowledge and know love", but in a chill,grateful way. Corelli's rendition did it for me.

wanderer said...

Me too.

It is a powerful story, and it's a pity to see them not able to get much deeper into it than the 'let's make it a dream' which is just too easy a way out.

Portraits of Wildflowers said...

Thanks for providing three renditions for comparison. The first version, as you pointed out, was darker than the others, and Kaufmann had the habit, common to certain singers, of often pronouncing /e/ as /i/; I've been told that some singing teachers advocate that, but I prefer an /e/ to be an /e/. Thill played down the high note at the end, either for effect or because his voice couldn't produce the power of the other two. So I'm with first commenter in preferring Corelli, but that was almost a foregone conclusion for me anyway, as I've had and cherished some of Corelli's records for decades.

Susan Scheid said...

I come to this, as is so often the case, far behind the curve (so many alarming gaps in my education). Of course, I am well aware of Gounod’s Faust . . . not to mention Goethe’s (and a host more), but I’ve not yet heard or watched this opera or read Goethe on the subject. Still, I console myself (as I often do), with the thought that not having done so only means I have so much to look forward to discovering. With that consolation, I embarked on a listen (comparisons are wonderful, thank you for doing that). Of course, so captivated was I by the aria itself, it was hard to think through that to choose. I thought at first Kaufmann (that rich, dark voice), then was swept away by Corelli (the thrill of his soaring high notes), then thought, well Thrill’s version had merit, too (gliding sweetly to the highest note, then gently slipping back down).

Now, as for the rest of this wonderful post, I do wonder about the wisdom of choosing “modern dress” sometimes. After all, those murals! Who would not want to see the version depicting that time and place, after all? So much more evocative of the subject matter. Yes, leave “modern dress,” certainly Fat Boy and all that, to the fine John Adams, who knows better than anyone how to tell those tales. (Yes, that one I did see live at the Met.)

I look forward to further tales from your travels “Out and About” (and good luck re breaking the tweeter news . . .).