Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Temptation. The word holds great power, even in an age where organised religion holds little sway. What would you give up your soul for?
Led into temptation by the garish Méphistophélès, Faust hardly hesitates, swapping a life of dissatisfied restraint for a salacious journey through life’s earthly pleasures.
McVicar’s startling production for Covent Garden puts the opera in the composer’s own time: the decadence and debauchery of 1870s Paris. Between towering cathedral columns and the crumbling proscenium arch of the theatre, Faust’s terrible pact plays out in all of its sinister splendor.
The images are at once delightful and disturbing, a reminder that given the chance, any one of us might stumble down Faust’s road.
Behind all this is the resounding beauty of Gounod’s music, including the famous ‘Soldier’s Chorus’.
Nicole Car sings the ‘Jewel Song’ in her role debut as Marguerite, opposite Teddy Tahu Rhodes in his debut as the devilish Méphistophélès and thrilling young American tenor Michael Fabiano in the title role. After his triumph as Rigoletto in Sydney, Giorgio Caoduro sings the role of Valentin under the baton of Guillaume Tourniaire.
When an ageing academic accepts a deal from the underworld, his dreams of youth and love look set to come true. But as the lives around him start to unravel, the devil, it seems, is in the detail.
(until 28 Feb)
|Revival Director||Bruno Ravella|
|Set Designer||Charles Edwards|
|Costume Designer||Brigitte Reiffenstuel|
|Lighting Designer||Paule Constable|
|Rehearsal Choreographer||Daphne Strothmann|
|Fight Choreographers||Scott Witt
|Assistant Choreographer||Shane Placentino|
|Méphistophélès||Teddy Tahu Rhodes|
Based on the co-production by Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Opéra de Lille, and Fondazione Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, Trieste and first performed at Covent Garden.
Adult themes; not recommended for children.
Running time: approximately 3 hours & 15 minutes, including one 25-minute interval.
Disillusioned with life, an ageing scholar makes a deal with the devil. He gains youth, beauty, love and riches and the services of Méphistophélès himself on this earth.
For these, he trades his freedom in the afterlife, but what will he regret on earth?
Weary of life and the vain pursuit of knowledge, the aged Faust decides on suicide. He is stopped in his tracks by the light of dawn and voices singing God’s praises. Faust bitterly renounces God and calls on Satan. Méphistophélès duly appears. He will satisfy Faust’s hedonistic demands in return for the philosopher’s soul. Hesitating at the last moment before signing the diabolic contract, Faust is finally swayed by a vision conjured up by Méphistophélès of the beautiful and innocent Marguerite: Faust must have her.
The town is celebrating. In their midst, Valentin is preoccupied with thoughts of leaving to fight in the war. He asks his friends to look after his sister Marguerite while he is away; among them is Siébel, who is in love with her. They are interrupted by Méphistophélès, who sings a blasphemous song and makes innuendos about Marguerite. This is too much for Valentin who is roused to defend his sister and attack Méphistophélès, but his sword breaks mid-air and everyone hastily withdraws. Méphistophélès is joined by Faust; when Marguerite appears she rejects Faust’s attentions.
Siébel leaves a bouquet of flowers for Marguerite. Next, Faust extols the virtues of Marguerite’s home while Méphistophélès also finds something to leave her: a box full of jewels. Marguerite appears, lost in thought, but is overcome with excitement as she discovers the jewel box and tries on its contents. Marthe Schwertlein, Marguerite’s neighbour, thinks that the jewels must be from an admirer. When both women are joined by Méphistophélès and Faust, the former distracts Marthe so that Faust can seduce Marguerite.
Five months have passed. Marguerite has been deserted by Faust, but is carrying his child. In church, her prayers are repeatedly interrupted by demons. She faints as Méphistophélès’ final curse denies her the hope of salvation.
Soldiers return from the war, Valentin among them. He asks Siébel to tell him how his sister is, but Siébel’s evasions prompt him angrily to rush into Marguerite’s house to find out for himself. Méphistophélès and Faust arrive, and the Devil satirically serenades Marguerite. Valentin emerges from the house demanding to know who is responsiblefor his sister’s shame. In the ensuing duel, Faust mortally wounds Valentin, who with his final words denies Marguerite any Christian compassion and damns her for eternity.
It is Walpurgis Night and a diabolic ballet ensues. Faust is subjected to visions, the last of which is of Marguerite in prison for the murder of their child and awaiting execution. Faust wants to go to her, and Méphistophélès obliges. Together in the cell, Faust and Marguerite remember their shared moments of love and Faust urges her to flee with him, but she resists, calling for divine protection. Marguerite’s supplication is answered: her soul ascends to heaven.
Synopsis reproduced by permission of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden