Monday, December 08, 2008

Faust HD Broadcast

The Metropolitan Opera HD Live
La Damnation de Faust
Hector Berlioz
Wed, Dec 3

Conductor, James Levine
Production, Robert Lepage

FAUST Marcello Giordani
BRANDER Patrick Carfizzi

I missed the original live broadcast which was supposedly sold-out in San Francisco, but I really wanted to check this one out. I finally made it to the re-broadcast last week. I'm a sucker for a spectacle, so this production worked for me. The show opens with a stunning image of the aging Faust high up on a wall of books that fills the height & width of the stage. Only after we've taken this in for several seconds does the orchestra enter. It was clear that the visual would take precedence over the musical.

I'm not sure that Damnation is really a narrative opera, & I think that this production does a good job dealing with its episodic, pageant-like structure. For every episode, director Robert Lepage had some sort of scenic magic involving dancers, acrobats & interactive video projections. & you can forget about gravity. Performers appear to drop into a lake & swirl gently underwater. Soldiers march straight up the vertical face of the set, & demonic creatures scamper like lizards across it. I'm sure it's even more fun seeing these stunts live.

I was so fascinated by the visual that I had to keep reminding myself to listen to the music. Whenever I did, I was rewarded by the Met orchestra's beautiful playing & Levine's expansive conducting. He made it seem like they could keep the music flowing effortlessly like that forever.

Susan Graham was a knock-out in her 2nd big scene, singing "D'amour l'ardente flamme" in front of a gigantic real-time projection of her face morphing into flames. I've seen Ms. Graham several times now, & she always comes through with a gripping performance. She must be at the top of her game these days.

I thought it interesting that all the singers claimed to have no idea what was being projected behind them. They are just one element in a complex construction.

We had a couple of unfortunate incidents at the screening. As the broadcast began, a theater announcement on the PA system told us to ignore a false alarm. At the end of the 1st half, a crazy bag lady came in & made quite a bit of noise with her shopping bags. She started yelling at another patron just as the intermission was beginning. Fortunately she decided not to come back after the break.

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