Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

Peter Grimes in Nice

Nice’s golden winter light is not that of England’s North Sea coast. Nonetheless the Opéra de Nice’s new production of Peter Grimes did much to take us there.

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

LA Opera Presents Figaro 90210

Figaro 90210 is Vid Guerrerio’s modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte’s 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Tristan und Isolde at the Wiener Staatsoper

David McVicar’s production of Wagner’s seminal music drama runs aground on the Cornish coast.

Songs of Night and Travel, Wigmore Hall

The coming of ‘Night’ brings darkness, shadows and mystery; sleep, dreams and nightmares; fancies, fantasies and passions.

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera

Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology.

Yevgeny Onegin in Warsaw

Mariusz Treliński’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is visually fascinating but psychologically confusing

Orfeo at the Roundhouse, Royal Opera

The regal trumpets and sackbuts sound their bold herald and, followed by admiring eyes, the powers of state and church begin their dignified procession along a sloping walkway to assume their lofty positions upon the central dais.

Idomeneo in Montpellier

Vestiges of a momentous era . . .

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

Das Liebesverbot opens the new season at Teatro Verdi in Trieste

Aron Stiehl’s production of this rare early Wagner opera cheerfully brings commedia dell’arte to La Cage aux Folles.

Amsterdam: Lohengrin Lite

Stage director Pierre Audi is not one to be strictly representational in his story telling.

Fidelio, Manitoba Opera

For the first time in its 42-year history, Manitoba Opera presented Beethoven’s mighty ode to freedom, Fidelio, with an extraordinary production that resonated as loudly as tolling bells of freedom.

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs: Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

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):