Jan 1, 2008

Preview; Faust in Orange

Affiche pour la 500e lithographie de Auguste Lamy Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra http://www.charles-gounod.com/
I've finally given up to the outrageously expensive tickets for the Orange Summer Festival. And will attend one performance of Gounod's Faust. My regular reading of several blogs sure had a great influence on this decision, as well as a friend constantly telling me the acoustics there, alongside the size of the audience is actually an amazing experience in itself. The blogs had an impact on the cast, since I tend to trust more people I can have a general sense of their taste (as well as beloved Le Monde's writer Renaud Machart, of course). Supposedly, the recent performances of Alagna in the MET's Aïda were great. Plus, he always has been a great Faust, at least until 2005.

This one always chats about how fantastic René Pape is, and since he almost exclusively sings Wagnerian operas, Faust is indeed one of the only occasions I truly have to appreciate his singing (of course he'll have to master the very difficult part of Méphistophélès first with special care to the beginning of the church scene in act IV, if it's not too much to ask).

Inva Mula could make a good, if not great, Marguerite, though I must admit I already prepare for the worst in the marathon that is the famous jewels aria. Nicolas Testé will be a real joy to hear again, even if it's only for a few sentences.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux made a good impression in Paris recently, but then again, the part of Dame Marthe is almost insignificant. I've never actually heard the part of Siebel being sung by a male singer, despite my numerous recordings of this opera, so it should be interesting enough.

The part that really scares me, though, is the one of Valentin. The brother of Marguerite has some amazing arias to sing, specifically "Avant de quitter ces lieux" and "Ecoute moi bien, Marguerite", the aria he dies after. Not even to mention the great "C'est une croix". Valentin is the part I love most in Faust. The baritone singing it must really own the score to make it work, and that's no easy job to master. As a matter of fact, all the Valentins I know range from average to pretty bad. All but Ernest Blanc. Is unknown Jean-François Lapointe up to the challenge? I fear he isn't.

Another fear I have is conductor Michel Plasson. He could alone ruin the whole thing. He is supposedly great at understanding French operas, but I'm sorry, he sucks. He destroyed Les Pêcheurs de Perles, his recording of Gounod's Mireille (scheduled for 2010 in Orange with him, once again) is a must-have only because it's the only decent one available, but it does definitely not showcase Gounod's music at its best.

The staging could be less boring than the average standard in Orange, considering Nicolas Joël, soon to become the new director of the Paris Opera, wouldn't put up a dumm concept knowing everybody is watching him. On the other hand, he could.

Finally a word of advice to those who might want to come and see this Faust this summer. You do not want to be trapped on one of the biggest travelling week-ends of the year, aka forget about the August 2nd performance unless the perspective of spending countless hours stuck in traffic or in crowded train stations is one of those you embrace.


mostly opera... said...

Interesting post, and thanks for the info esp. about the August 2nd performance since I am considering going..
By the way, isn´t it a revival of the old Faust that showed here in 2003 (with Alagna/Gheorghiu/Pape) or is it a new production by Joel?

Extatic said...

I don't know which Faust you're talking about, but the last production in Orange dates back from 1990.

Nicolas Joël did indeed direct an opera in 2003 in Orange, but it was Verdi's Otello.

Alagna, Georghiu and Pape were in Orange in 2002 for Gounod's Roméo et Juliette though.

Plus, the concept of Orange (supposedly eating 20% of the French annual average budget for Opera) is having two new productions each year (explaining why Orange's schedule has only two operas per year).

mostly opera... said...

You are of course right! I was thinking of the 2002 Romeo and Juliette mixed up with the 2003 Otello. Thanks for clearing that up!

Anonymous said...

Jean-François Lapointe isn't an unknown at all !
He has already sung the role of Valentin a lot of times and you can hear him singing Valentin's aria with Youtube.
Enjoy !