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Faust

Royal Opera House

THIS is a revival of the David McVicar production last seen with two casts in 2004. That summer it was Covent Garden's blockbuster show with Bryn Terfel, Roberto Alagna, Simon Keenlyside and Angela Gheorghiu in the leading roles.

Only Gheorghiu remains in this all-singing, all-dancing production of the devil at work. Indeed, it is a return to form for the Romanian diva, who disappointed in this summer's new production of Tosca. Piotr Beczala (Faust) reprises the role he sung at Covent Garden in the second cast in autumn 2004.

Mephistopheles (Orlin Anastassov) gives the suicidal, aged Faust back his youth as long as he does Satan's bidding. He uses the vision of the beautiful, innocent Marguerite (Gheorghiu) the deal clincher.

Russell Braun plays her protective brother Valentin, for whom Mephistopheles engineers a fatal end. Christine Rice is in the trousers role of the naïve Siebel, who is in love with Marguerite.

Gounod's score must be a delight to conduct and Maurizio Benini certainly seemed to be enjoying himself, while the chorus was in rumbustuous form. Charles Edwards' atmospheric set leaves the patrons sitting in the slips stretching their necks at times, but Brigitte Reiffenstuel's costumes and Paule Constable's lighting suit perfectly this dark war-time drama.

Polish-born Beczala's French obviously does not match that of native son Alagna, but his brooding looks make him perfect for a man torn between right and wrong. You do, though, miss the glint-in-the-eye menace of Terfel's Mephistopheles. Anastassov has the booming voice, but there is no bigger personality on the opera stage at the moment than the Welsh Warbler.

Review by Peter Wilson


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