René Pape (Photo: Jeanne Susplugas)
In this 'Faust,' the devil's in the details
BY JUSTIN DAVIDSON [Newsday, 25 Apr 05]
In opera, embarrassment comes with the territory. Sooner or later, if you're a fine and dignified singer, you will find yourself trapped onstage in a situation or a costume so stupid that the voice of God couldn't save the scene. For René Pape, who has the body and bearing of a Hussar and who is probably the world's best basso, the moment came in Act IV of the Metropolitan Opera's new production of "Faust," the scene in which the illegitimately pregnant Marguerite enters a church to repent and finds a taunting Mephistopheles.
That would be Pape, cloaked at first in a monk's hood and cassock, which he sheds to reveal a hilariously muscled nude suit, armored in plastic pectorals and sporting gauzy wings, a prodigious codpiece and a 4-foot-long rat's tail. He looked less like Satan than like a third-tier superhero's nemesis. On the other hand, he was singing with Apollonian poise.
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Faust, Metropolitan Opera, New York
By Martin Bernheimer [Financial Times, 27 Apr 05]
The Metropolitan Opera has always been sentimental about Faust. Gounod's essentially Gallic reduction of Goethe's ultra-Germanic drama served as the company's first vehicle, back in 1883 and the candy-coated opus has returned for its 714th performance in a new, heavily cut, bravely muddled production staged by Andrei Serban and designed by Santo Loquasto.
The management reportedly gave these two a mandate: Respect tradition. So they did, after a fashion. Tongues lodged loosely in cheek, they toyed, sometimes cleverly, sometimes clumsily, with the old romantic kitsch.
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