Faust, ***/ The Makropulos Case,****
Opera North, Grand Theatre, Leeds
Friday 19 October 2012
Gounod's Faust, once the most popular opera in the world, is now very much an also-ran. It is so much a period piece that it presents obvious production problems. Directors Rob Kearley and Ran Arthur Braun have brought it into the urban present, which avoids the banalities of costume drama and works well in some respects.
It is apt that Marguerite opts for an abortion rather than murdering her child outright. And Valentin as a presidential candidate who goes off to his campaign is a fresh turn.
The production relies heavily on video projections- fine if they were not so repetitive- but the singing and acting are generally strong. Peter Auty takes the title role with eloquence and assurance, and Juanita Lascarro is a suitably gentle and touching Marguerite. But it is James Creswell as Méphistophélès who dominates the show with a commanding performance which is also elegant, witty and full of panache. There is strong support from an enlarged chorus and the excellent orchestra conducted by Stuart Stratford.
It's taken a while, but Janacek now occupies a secure place in the standard operatic repertoire. Quite right too, but you notice that it is the two most conventional narrative pieces, Jenufa and Kata Kabanova, that are the most performed.
So good on Opera North who over the past few seasons have staged all six of Janacek’s mature operas, concluding this autumn with The Makropulos Case, the story of a woman who has lived for more than three hundred years and is tired of immortality.
It is a philosophical comedy, a detective story laced with reflections on mortality. It is also Janacek’s most modern and sophisticated opera score, and the orchestra under Richard Farnes gives a sharp and brilliant account of it. Tom Cairns’ staging is relatively straightforward but always clear and a large cast sing and act strongly. As Emilia Marty (or Elina Makropulos) Ylva Kihlberg gives a consummate performance, rising superbly to the heights of the overwhelming final scene. This, the least familiar and accessible of this autumn’s three operas, is nonetheless the real gem of the season.
Until November 3rd, then touring to Salford, Newcastle & Nottingham
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Kermit the Frog has a new girlfriend named Denise
- 2 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 3 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
JK Rowling announces Harry Potter's son is starting at Hogwarts
Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
Loose Women poll asking if rape is 'ever a woman's fault' sparks backlash
James Bond is a 'very lonely, sexist misogynist', says Daniel Craig
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be