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Subject: Re: Damnation disappointment
From: Kirsten Lee <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Kirsten Lee <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 24 Nov 2008 23:41:11 -0800

text/plain (105 lines)

On Mon, Nov 24, 2008 at 3:44 PM, Claudia Siegel <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I have to say that I found the Met's Damnation to be very disappointing. It
was redundant, cliche-bound catering to low-brow tech, a completely
unnecessary trope to a piece in which the ORCHESTRA is one of the main
points of interest.

I was writing a private response to a lister who wanted me to explain what I
found so objectionable regarding la damnation de Faust HD cast. Then I saw
Claudia's e-mail which sums up my feelings:

 I have seen several other productions of this work staged in the last
several years, all of them so-called Regietheater interpretations but I felt
that they brought out music more than Lapage work which abused Berlioz's
masterpiece like a background music to various screensavers.

I didn't like the literal translation of every word on the screen imagery -
Faust mentions les oiseaux (let's have a flock of birds flying), arbre (we
definitely need trees swaying here), flamme (let's set the diva on fire),
what are we in for, French lesson for the deaf??

When I heard complaints regarding "two-dimensionality" of the staging from
the listers who attended the in-house performance I thought perhaps Lapage's
staging had been designed with HD cast in mind and expected that it would
look better on the screen.

Unfortunately there's a "TV director" who comes with the stage director and
the HD audience, in this case Barbara Willis Sweete (yes that lady who gave
us the split screen disaster of Tristan last year) who in this case went out
of her way to focus the camera on each compartment, not as a whole picture
lest should she be accused of "splitting screens" by showing Lapage staging
as a whole. (I normally find HD transmission quite well done - I guess those
were directed by Gary Halvorson who does a good job with balanced camera
work between closeup and long shots.)
It didn't help that everyone's reflection was highly visible due to whatever
the screen they were using in the background.

So we got to see close-up shots of Faust and Mephisto riding on
Merry-go-rounds with bars above their heads, the soldiers dying of viagra
overdose due to unfortunately placed harnesses, and the exploding school of
jellyfish in the dances of the sylphes.

I think if Lapage's staging had been shown as a whole instead of close-up
shots perhaps the effect would have been better.

As far as the singing is concerned Susan Graham is just about the best
Marguerite one can get (and I highly recommend her les nuits d'ete - as she
said Berlioz made up for Graham what Puccini didn't write for her). Her
rendition of le roi de Thule was exquisite although I wanted to hear a bit
more of palpitating urgency with slight "out of breathness" in d'amour
l'ardente flamme than she gave.

I've been thinking John Reylea was a bit overrated at the Met but his
Mephisto was surprisingly much better than I had expected. The costume was
appropriately gaudy and I liked the little red purse he was carrying.

I didn't think Giordani sounded very well in the theater but this could be
debated. Perhaps he really sounded fabulous in house. I think this role has
the highest tessitura among 3 Faust works (excluding Busoni's which is
baritone) although Giordani has good power but he made me often nervous. By
the time he got to Nature immense I was worrying a lot about Giordani, is he
going to be able to make it and kept wishing for Jonas Kaufmann.

Lapage' Hell is where out of shape middle aged men run loose topless. A lot
scarier than that of Bosch. The chorus sang superbly but I wish I can erase
that scene from my memory.

I consider Berlioz a master of orchestration along with Britten and Strauss
and it was sad to see the spotlight being clouded by busy business of hockey
pockey alla KA. Levine and the singers deserved a better treatment let alone

I loved the 4 cherubs who sang aove the ladder - they really sounded like
angels. I recommend installing a glass elevator when Borodina ascends to
heaven by the way (unless she wants to try one of bungee hooks by Lapage &

One last question - can someone please tell me what that thing that was
pulsating in the background when Marguerite climbed up the letter? I hope he
didn't take Marguerite's "mon coeur bat et se presse..." literally and
showed a sonogram of a heart???

Kirsten Lee


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