I have been sitting on a half completed post about Opera Australia’s current production of Gounod’s Faust for a while.  This is not it.

The production, originally directed by David McVicar is an often revived co-production between Covent Garden and a number of other houses. It has been brought out here by the Opera Conference and is destined to rattle around Australia – to Adelaide and Perth at least, for much of this year (with Teddy T-R as Mephistopheles on each occasion). Maybe it will get to Melbourne and Brisbane next year if it hasn’t been packed off back home by then.

The Sydney production is strongly cast. I have seen it twice and have only a few niggles:

  • When Valentin, Marguerite’s brother, is off to the war, he is concerned about leaving Marguerite home alone.  Sebald (a trousers role), who nurtures a (we know) hopeless love for Marguerite, reassures Valentin that he will look after Marguerite while Valentin is away.  This is not a lewd suggestion (we know Sebald’s love is pure and also hopeless as he is too young for Marguerite to be interested) and Valentin thanks Sebald.  Sebald responds that Valentin can count on him.  The men’s chorus echo “You can count on us too.”  That is a little more suggestive.  All the same, I don’t think that the thrusting gesture with a rolled-up newspaper by one gentleman of the chorus was called for. A little teasing might be OK but I lewdness directed towards a departing soldier’s sister seemed implausibly vulgar.
  • Likewise, in the Garden scene (when Faust seduces Marguerite), Mephistopheles disappears inside the house of Marthe, Marguerite’s neighbour (she’s a comic duenna type character) for a bit of how’s-your-father.  That’s fine and it’s clear that is what is going to happen.  But I don’t think that Mephistopheles would emerge, as he does in this production, buttoning up his trousers.  Mephistopheles is the devil but he is also a bit of a gent.
  • Musically, I was a bit surprised, both times, at the strident tone that Peter Jenkin, the principal clarinet, adopted for one of his big solos, but he must have been doing it from choice.

Otherwise, it is a strong production and accessible music.  Perfect for high-brows and non-highbrows alike, provided the latter are prepared to go along with a rather clunky story and its premiss in particular of the fallen lass who can reasonably expect to be damned (OK: she does kill her child).

Emboldened by the universally positive critical reception, Opera Australia have announced an extra performance, on Monday 9 March.  I would gladly go but the date is impossible for me.

Meanwhile I am concerned that OA may have left their run a bit late.  The production was well-booked even before opening night and it is a pity that the extra performance couldn’t have been announced earlier. It’s all very well waiting for the opening night, the reviews and the word-of-mouth, but a couple of  weeks or so is a rather short time to rustle up an audience on a Monday night at 6.30 pm with ticket prices as they are. People need to plan for these things (especially considering the price). When I looked just now there were still 839 [Revision: not 739 as I originally stated owing to a failure to carry the 1] seats out of 1431 available for sale.

I hope they can shift those seats.  It would be a pity if they went to waste.

12 Responses to “Faust”

  1. wanderer Says:

    Well they (or at least the Fabiano interview) shifted two to me; well placed cheapies, relatively speaking.

  2. marcellous Says:

    I don’t think you will regret it, W.

    Confusingly (unless I just made a mistake with my addition) there are now 385(upstairs) + 442(downstairs)= 827 seats available, so somebody needs to spread the word.

  3. Victor Says:

    They must be struggling with their ticket sales generally this year. I have had the same man call me about five times over recent months pressing me to resubscribe before ‘all the tickets are gone’.

    In the same breath the caller tells me I can obtain good seats for nearly every production.

    • marcellous Says:

      Struggling or trying harder, V, who knows? Prices did take a jump this year (25% for mine).

      But if you are free on Mon there are still about 460 seats of all qualities available and I would recommend it. The other performances of Faust have been pretty much sold out for a while (which is why I think it is a pity they didn’t put this extra one on earlier).

      • Victor Says:

        I couldn’t make that performance unfortunately. I heard strong reports of the production from a number of my friends.

  4. wanderer Says:

    Really good show M.

    • marcellous Says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, W. I almost went as the trial I was in finished early but I was totally (though not literally) buggered and so not in a fit state to appreciate it and let it pass.

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