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Subject: "Mefistofele' tonight at the Met
From: William Videbeck <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Thu, 8 Nov 2018 16:13:28 -0500

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Tonight the Met brings 'Mefistofele' back to its stage. It's an opera I have long loved ever since I first heard the Toscanini recording of the Prologue, and my first staged production seen in Chicago in, I believe, 1961 with Boris Christoff. 

What attracts me so to the piece is its sense of architecture.  Boito has a way with a melody, deceptively simple at times but utterly beautiful in a classic fashion. At times, his music takes on a quirky, somewhat skittish drive, sometime playful sometimes ironic. Perhaps in the manner of an Italian Berlioz? For all the lyrical passions spent with the Devil tempting, Faust exulting and Margherita languishing, the mood still remains at somewhat of a remove, passionately. The Prologue in its grand sense of cosmic space with seraphs flitting to and fro and angelic choruses in the next eternity and an mighty antagonist flaunting everything before our eyes, ought to have whatever technology it can achieve to provide that practically quadraphonic experience to its conclusion.  The rest of the opera are panoramas, constructed scenes into which Faust and Mefistofeles intrude. 

That production I saw with Christoff and company was excellent even in the mise en scene, about as imaginative as abilities could conceive in its day. An even better production for me came later with Frank Corsaro's highly defined staging at the New York City Opera, and Norman Treigle to do the taunting. A very mathematically minded staging if the universe can be described as mathematical. 

But as for musical prominence, I have to give special attention to the second revival in Chicago's production in 1965, which regrettably I did not see but have heard on discs.  It is superb. Nicolai Ghiaurov, Alfedo Kraus, Renata Tebaldi and Elena Suliotis, all marvelously luminous in their parts. I did attend a concert performance of the opera with some of this same cast in New York a few months later which remains memorable in my mind.  Other recorded performances from this and past generations exist which I have yet to explore.

I look forward to tonight's performance trusting that the artists will find the inspiration to surpass especially their own expectations. 

Bill V.

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