Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

European premiere of Unsuk Chin’s Le Chant des enfants des étoiles, with works by Biber and Beethoven

Excellent programming: worthy of Boulez, if hardly for the literal minded. (‘I think you’ll find [stroking chin] Beethoven didn’t know Unsuk Chin’s music, or Heinrich Biber’s. So … what are they doing together then? And … AND … why don’t you use period instruments? I rest my case!’)

Rising Stars in Concert 2018 at Lyric Opera of Chicago

On a recent weekend evening the performers in the current roster of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago presented a concert of operatic selections showcasing their musical talents. The Lyric Opera Orchestra accompanied the performers and was conducted by Edwin Outwater.

Arizona Opera Presents a Glittering Rheingold

On April 6, 2018, Arizona Opera presented an uncut performance of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold. It was the first time in two decades that this company had staged a Ring opera.

Handel's Teseo brings 2018 London Handel Festival to a close

The 2018 London Handel Festival drew to a close with this vibrant and youthful performance (the second of two) at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, of Handel’s Teseo - the composer’s third opera for London after Rinaldo (1711) and Il pastor fido (1712), which was performed at least thirteen times between January and May 1713.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

The Moderate Soprano

The Moderate Soprano and the story of Glyndebourne: love, opera and Nazism in David Hare’s moving play

The Spirit of England: the BBCSO mark the centenary of the end of the Great War

Well, it was Friday 13th. I returned home from this moving and inspiring British-themed concert at the Barbican Hall in which the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Sir Andrew Davis had marked the centenary of the end of World War I, to turn on my lap-top and discover that the British Prime Minister had authorised UK armed forces to participate with French and US forces in attacks on Syrian chemical weapon sites.

Thomas Adès conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone at the Royal Festival Hall

This seemed a timely moment for a performance of Stravinsky’s choral ballet, Perséphone. April, Eliot’s ‘cruellest month’, has brought rather too many of Chaucer’s ‘sweet showers [to] pierce the ‘drought of March to the root’, but as the weather finally begins to warms and nature stirs, what better than the classical myth of the eponymous goddess’s rape by Pluto and subsequent rescue from Hades, begetting the eternal rotation of the seasons, to reassure us that winter is indeed over and the spirit of spring is engendering the earth.

Dido and Aeneas: La Nuova Musica at Wigmore Hall

This performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by La Nuova Musica, directed by David Bates, was, characteristically for this ensemble, alert to musical details, vividly etched and imaginatively conceived.

Bernstein's MASS at the Royal Festival Hall

In 1969, Mrs Aristotle Onassis commissioned a major composition to celebrate the opening of a new arts centre in Washington, DC - the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, named after her late husband, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated six years earlier.

Hans Werner Henze : The Raft of the Medusa, Amsterdam

This is a landmark production of Hans Werner Henze's Das Floß der Medusa (The Raft of the Medusa) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher in Amsterdam earlier this month, with Dale Duesing (Charon), Bo Skovhus and Lenneke Ruiten, with Cappella Amsterdam, the Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderen Jeugdkoor, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, in a powerfully perceptive staging by Romeo Castellucci.

Johann Sebastian Bach, St John Passion, BWV 245

This was the first time, I think, since having moved to London that I had attended a Bach Passion performance on Good Friday here.

Easter Voices, including mass settings by Mozart and Stravinsky

It was a little early, perhaps, to be hearing ‘Easter Voices’ in the middle of Holy Week. However, this was not especially an Easter programme – and, in any case, included two pieces from Gesualdo’s Tenebrae responsories for Good Friday. Given the continued vileness of the weather, a little foreshadowing of something warmer was in any case most welcome. (Yes, I know: I should hang my head in Lenten shame.)

Academy of Ancient Music: St John Passion at the Barbican Hall

‘In order to preserve the good order in the Churches, so arrange the music that it shall not last too long, and shall be of such nature as not to make an operatic impression, but rather incite the listeners to devotion.’

Fiona Shaw's The Marriage of Figaro returns to the London Coliseum

The white walls of designer Peter McKintosh’s Ikea-maze are still spinning, the ox-skulls are still louring, and the servants are still eavesdropping, as Fiona Shaw’s 2011 production of The Marriage of Figaro returns to English National Opera for its second revival. Or, perhaps one should say that the servants are still sleeping - slumped in corridors, snoozing in chairs, snuggled under work-tables - for at times this did seem a rather soporific Figaro under Martyn Brabbins’ baton.

Lenten Choral Music from the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

Time was I could hear the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge almost any evening I chose, at least during term time. (If I remember correctly, Mondays were reserved for the mixed voice King’s Voices.)

A New Faust at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s innovative, new production of Charles Gounod’s Faust succeeds on multiple levels of musical and dramatic representation. The title role is sung by Benjamin Bernheim, his companion in adventure Méphistophélès is performed by Christian Van Horn.

Netrebko rules at the ROH in revival of Phyllida Lloyd's Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play of the night: of dark interiors and shadowy forests. ‘Light thickens, and the crow/Makes wing to th’ rooky wood,’ says Macbeth, welcoming the darkness which, whether literal or figurative, is thrillingly and threateningly palpable.

San Diego’s Ravishing Florencia

Daniel Catán’s widely celebrated opera, Florencia en el Amazonas received a top tier production at the wholly rejuvenated San Diego Opera company.

Samantha Hankey wins Glyndebourne Opera Cup

Four singers were awarded prizes at the inaugural Glyndebourne Opera Cup, which reached its closing stage at Glyndebourne on 24th March. The Glyndebourne Opera Cup focuses on a different single composer or strand of the repertoire each time it is held. In 2018 the featured composer was Mozart and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompanied the ten finalists.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Pascal Dusapin: Faustus, the Last Night
26 Oct 2009

Pascal Dusapin: Faustus, the Last Night

Pascal Dusapin (b. 1955) is an engaging composer, and his recent works includes a chamber opera entitled Faustus, the Last Night, a unique setting of the legend and a fine contribution to modern opera.

Pascal Dusapin: Faustus, the Last Night

Georg Nigl (Faustus); Urban Malmberg (Mephistopheles); Robert Wörle (Sly); Jaco Huijpen (Togod); Caroline Stein (L’ange | The angel); Orchestre de l’Opéra de Lyon, Jonathan Stockhammer, conductor.

Naïve MO 782177 [DVD]

$???  Click to buy

This version of Faust differs from others, since it eschews the traditional narrative which starts with Faust signing a pact with the devil, moves to the sometimes picaresque adventures of the ensorcelled Faust, and ends with the devil claiming his soul. Instead of retelling the story, Dusapin assembled the English-language libretto from various sources to create a text focused on the trials and temptations of Faust during the minutes before his fateful contract with the devil is due. In a sense Dusapin takes his cue from Marlowe’s climactic soliloquy from the end of his Tragical History of Doctor Faustus:

Ah Faustus,
Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,
And then though must be damned perpetually,
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,That time may cease ad midnight never come!....
O lente, lente currite noctis equi!
The stars move still; time runs; the clock will strike;
The devil will come, and Faustus must be damned. . . .
(Act 5, lines 57-61; 66-68)

In creating this work, Faust is not necessarily a character worth saving, with the inanity of his diabolic pact made painfully clear, and Mephistopheles characterized with the dimensionality which makes him more than a minion of Satan, but approaching the persona of Lucifer in challenging the nature of mortal existence. The conversational tone of Faustus, the Last Night may be traced to the kind of opera Strauss created in Capriccio, in the medium foregoes the depiction of physical action to result instead in a shift of thought and concept. (The concept is also used in Henri Pousseu’s Votre Faust (1969), which revolves around a discussion about the prospect of an opera on the subject of Faust.) The conversational aspect of Dusapin’s Faustusalso echoes some elements of early opera, which resulted in various settings of familiar myth. Akin to those early seventeenth-century works, music in Faustus serves as a means to an end, a way for Dusapin to convey the verbal ideas effectively. At times, too, the score functions as a kind of soundtrack in order to allow the work to shift between scenes smoothly and offer cues to mood and tone.

The performers as a whole conveyed the work effectively. The English-language text emerges clearly, and while listeners should not have a problem with the enunciation, subtitles are possible in the original language, as well as French and German. Since the libretto is not published with the DVD, those interested in exploring the text further may use the subtitles as a point of departure (future DVDs like this would benefit from the inclusion of the full text in the digital medium, as a matter of convenience for the user). As Mephistopheles, Urban Malmberg personifies the role. His command of the part is remarkable and serves as a foil for the doomed Faustus, as depicted by Georg Nigl. At times Malmberg and Nigl overlap their lines, as found in the score, and this underscores the blurring of their characters in this work. In Dusapin’s Faustus, Mephistopheles can be as absorbed in thought as Faust. In lieu of a stage devil who simply represents the diabolical forces, Mephistopheles offers some comments which can be as intriguing as the ones Dusapin puts into Faust’s mouth.

This resembles the interchangeability which occurs in modern productions of Don Giovanni in the singers who portray the title character and his servant Leporello sometimes switch their roles between performances. In this sense, Malberg and Nigl work well together in this work to create a good dynamic, and the other principals respond well to it. The angel is one of the more engaging of Dusapin’s characters, and Caroline Stein gave the role the level of definition to counterbalance Mephistopheles. The other two characters, Robert Wörle as Sly (derived from the character in the prologue to Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew) and Jaco Huijpen as Togod offer various perspectives on the dilemma in which Faust finds himself. Throughout the performance the conductor Jonathan Stockhammer allows the orchestra to support the singers deftly. His tempos reflect his sensitivity to the text, which emerges clearly in an engaging reading of the score for this new version of the Faust legend.

James L. Zychowicz

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):