The devil made me do it...
Mefistofele Samuel Ramey
Faust Richard Margison
Wagner/Nereo Peter Hoare
Marta/Pantalis Patricia Bardon
Conductor Bernard Haitink
Royal Opera Chorus (with boys' chorus) and Orchestra
The chorus are "heavenly host, cherubim, penitents, hunters, villagers,
students, witches, warlocks, coryphaei, warriors" and some uncredited
nymphs. It's one of those works that's almost unstageable. If Boioto had
written an oratorio, he could have kept the poodle. (The monk is a decent
anti-clerical joke, though, and a monk going round in circles is quite
funny.) At any rate, both Goethe's play and Boioto's libretto work as
narrative poems. Mefistofele is ideal for a concert performance.
Briefly, this one was stunning, mainly because of the superb orchestral
playing and the chorus. Ramey puts a lot into his signature role, but he
struck me as more of a butch imp than a proper devil, though he got over
the (somewhat deracinated) humour of the devil quite well. Richard Margison
I found a bit puzzling. He's got a solid voice, but doesn't do anything at
all with it. He's shorter than Ramey, which is mildly amusing. Patricia
Bardon sounded gorgeous in the minor roles. I found Nellie Miriciou a bit
close to wobbly, and she mauled the Italian at times, though she was
totally sympathetic in both parts, particularly in Elena's vision of the
destruction of Troy.
This massive performance was so loud that there was some feedback on some
of the speakers in the hall. It was close to physically overwhelming at
times, but it a civilised sort of way. I kept thinking that Boioto's
problem with Faust II was a spurious one -- he didn't need to do it at all,
because his highly Italian treatment of Faust I embodies the synthesis of
ideal and real that Goethe saw in Italian culture, and which is the
unstated synthesis of Germanic and classical culture to which Goethe's
I hope all the microphones in the hall meant that there will be a broadcast.
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