Last night David and I, along with our friends Robert and Larry, saw Chicago Lyric's presentation of Charles Gounod's Faust. It is filled with gorgeous melodies and requires virtuoso singing. Fortunately, Chicago Lyric had a cast that could do both.
Ailyn Perez as Marguerite sang sensationally. Both in the coloratura 'Jewel Song' and in the more lyric moments she was splendid. A fine singer.
As Faust, Benjamin Bernheim was equally good with a remarkable top to his voice.
Edward Parks as Valentin sang with a strong baritone voice that had a wonderful sound.
Christian van Horn as Mephistopheles was a very big presence with a very big voice. He couldn't quite produce the three octaves of laughter on high 'f' to low 'f' as Gounod wrote, but was very menacing.
Annie Rosen as Siebel was a little light vocally but sang her aria well.
The huge chorus, as always, sang very well under the direction of Michael Black. Emmanuel Villaume was the splendid conductor.
Now we come to the sets and stage direction. A different story. Kevin Newbury was the production designer and Vita Tzykun the set and costume designer.
In a word, I hated it. The stage was overfull of props and screens on which a barrage of images of skeletons, corpses, and crosses ran rampant. It was distracting and had little to do with the opera. This is a part of the current idea that any classic opera has to be completely overhauled. Had it not been for the great singing, This would have ruined the opera for me.
There was very little movement from either the soloists or the chorus, which aways seemed to be stuffed on the stage. But all the twitching electronics distracted one so much it didn't seem to matter.
But then, I am an old grouch!