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

40 minutes with Barbara Hannigan...in rehearsal

One of the initiatives for the community at the Lucerne Festival is the ‘40 min’ series. A free concert given before the evening’s main event that ranges from chamber music to orchestral rehearsals.

Prom 54 - Mozart's Last Year with the Budapest Festival Orchestra

The mysteries and myths surrounding Mozart’s Requiem Mass - left unfinished at his death and completed by his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr - abide, reinvigorated and prolonged by Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus as directed on film by Miloš Forman. The origins of the work’s commission and composition remain unknown but in our collective cultural and musical consciousness the Requiem has come to assume an autobiographical role: as if Mozart was composing a mass for his own presaged death.

High Voltage Tosca in Cologne

I saw two operas consecutively at Oper Koln. First, the utterly bewildering Lucia di Lammermoor; then Thilo Reinhardt’s thrilling Tosca. His staging was pure operatic joy with some Hitchcockian provocations.

Haitink at the Lucerne Festival

Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music. His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.

BBC Prom 45 - Janáček: The Makropulos Affair

Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.

Two Tales of Offenbach: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.

Britten Untamed! Glyndebourne: A Midsummer Night's Dream

This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?

Salzburg encores

A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert.  Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.

Leah Crocetto at Santa Fe

On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.

Angela Meade at Sante Fe

On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.

Turco in Italia in Pesaro

When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.

Proms Chamber Music 5: Shakespeare at 400

It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.

La donna del lago in Pesaro

Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.

Proms at … Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at …’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.

Santa Fe: Straussian Sweet Nothings

With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.

Santa Fe’s Civil War Gounod

When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.

Coolly Elegant Vanessa in the Desert

Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.

Le Comte Ory, Seattle

Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.

Racette’s Golden Girl in New Mexico

Fan interest began raging when Santa Fe Opera engaged venerable artist Patricia Racette to make her role debut as Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West.

Santa Fe’s Mozart Cast Sweeps All Before It

A funny thing happened on the way to Andalusia.

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):