By luck of the schedule, I had two Lyric operas this week, Puccini’s Tosca last Tuesday and Gounod’s Faust last night. That’s about six-and-a-half hours of opera, my limit for any given week. I enjoyed them both, despite having seen each of these productions before, but I much preferred Faust.
I think I may have seen the final performance of this run of Tosca (there are six performances in January with different leads) which might explain why some of the singing seemed overpowered by the orchestra. James Morris (Scarpia) is always a commanding presence on stage and fun to watch. Deborah Voigt has a lovely voice but she’s not a performer whom I really connect with. Her acting seemed a bit stilted, especially anytime she had to move more than three steps in any direction on stage.
This is the nearly 50-year-old Zeffirelli production and in my humble opinion, a prime example of enough is enough when it comes to Lyric trotting out the old tried-and-true audience favorites. Give us something new to look at! I realize you should be careful what you wish for but when it’s an opera so often in the rotation, they should really reward long-time subscribers, not punish them with the same old thing.
Faust is also a production I’ve seen before, but only once and the performances here were so good I didn’t mind. I’d forgotten how much I liked this opera. The music is beautiful, the staging effective and though the three leads carry much of the story, there’s enough going on (including the use of a large chorus) to keep it from ever getting dull.
Piotr Beczala (Faust), René Pape (Mephistopheles), and Ana María Martínez (Marguerite) played well off one another, excellent singers and actors all, especially Martinez who convincingly portrayed the gamut of Marguerite, from innocent love-struck young girl to a woman fallen from grace and out of her mind. This opera has something for everyone (a little dancing, a little comedy, swordplay, the devil, beautiful music, exhilarating choral segments, romance, beautiful sets, and a riveting story that moves along so you hardly notice the three-and-a-half hour running time.