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Subject: A pleasant Faust experience!
From: "James A. Van Sant" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:James A. Van Sant
Date:Sat, 22 Nov 2008 17:18:23 -0700
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My party of regulars did our Lensic Performing Arts routine today for the Berlioz 
Faust and found it excellent. After the opera, we repaired about 10-ft across Burro
Ally for a good late lunch at Cafe Paris,  and endless chat about the opera -- it's a 
pleasant way  to wind down after a 'live' show. It's a long day  10.30 to 3.30, and the 
dog is annoyed by our absence.  But we make it up to her otherwise. 
    I don't know if the Berlioz score is Levine's "masterpiece" from head to toe, but it
certainly is marvelous music -- all of it. I understood what M. le Page was doing and 
respect him for it; it's a good idea to give this static oratorio a presentation of this kind.
I saw the original at Bastille four or so years ago (Groves, Larmore, Ramey ): it worked
then and it worked today, though it is vastly better in the big house without all the close-ups.
 I am really getting fed up with these opera close ups. Some -- OK, but the are becoming 
tiresome. Heaven knows what LePage will do with the Wagner Ring in two years. But,
I think he is a good judge of his art, and of theatrical effect, so if he does not over do the 
technicals, his Ring may be excellent. (I still wonder who they have to sing it?) 
    Relyea was a pleasant surprise today - he looked, played and sang well. Is it just me, 
or did his voice sound amplified a good deal of the time?  Overall, the reception here in 
the Southern Rockies was 100% OK, with voice balance and choral naturalness
better, by far, that Atomic.  Graham and Giordani sounded their usual selves, ans in a 
natural house acoustic. Relyea sounded puffed up in tone, and the voice as heard here 
today did not have the glisten and edge that I think it would take to be heard in a house 
like the Met, transparent though the B. score may be.  So....I have to conclude he was 
somehow bodymiked, with the other two leads not so!  Anybody here know about that? 
      Contrary to Opera-L sentiment of late, I found Marcello Giordani a splended high-tenor
 singer today; he's beefing up to a rather unaesthetic degree and he certainly is no actor,
but he sings French well and his vocal quality all afternoon was agreeable. Did I hear him 
touch high Db?  We are not used to so much  'squillo' in French rep, and he certainly puts 
little restraint on that brightly piercing  top sound -- but it zings thru the house. 
      I would rather hear a tonally-refulgent voice like Boradina  than Graham in this music, 
and did I hear Mme. B. is coming next season to sing Marguerite? I hope so. Susan was ok -
looked ok, sang reliably, in any case vastly better than her Donna Elvira earlier this season; 
but her years and expanding weight are catching up with her and she needs to attend to 
that weight. I know she is 5'11 and has a big frame -- even so.  Matronly.  I find her singing 
at this point adequate, but unexceptional. Sorry, but that's how I heard it. I don't want to see 
or hear her Octavian next year; a Marschallin at Houston or Santa Fe (there are rumors),
might be of more interest. She's not a dumb singer. 
    Someone complained Relyea's costume was "campy." I must disagree; I thought it was
 just right! In fact every devil I have ever known looked just like that. Exactly. J. C. Penny's
has it every year at Halloween.  
   Over all, the Berlioz Faust is a lovely and very moving opera. It's mid-19th C. presentation 
of Christian salvation, when supported by such quality music, remains sentimentally touching. 
And when it's played so well as it was today by the Met orchestra - it can be thrilling.
JIM
sfe

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