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The Damnation of Faust (2011)

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Credited cast:
Christine Rice ...
Peter Hoare ...
Christopher Purves ...
Nicholas Folwell ...
Brander
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Edward Gardner ...
Himself - Conductor
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14 October 2011 (UK)  »

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Holocaust Berlioz
18 April 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

La Damnation De Faust(The Damnation of Faust) is a fine opera-oratorio and the music is wonderful. This production from Terry Gilliam does have some good things about it but never really comes together as a whole. Christine Rice sounds splendid and her Margheurite is very touching. The orchestral playing has a sound that is shimmering and authoritative, with a wide range of colour and dynamic range and a good sense of drama. The rest of the musical values however are a mixed bag, Edward Gardner clearly loves the score and conducts diligently but it is a little lacking in fire sometimes. Peter Hoare mostly has a ringing sound for Faust but it starts to become hoarse towards the end and his sense of drama varies being better in the latter half of the production. Christopher Purves vocally is rather lightweight and too much of a bass-baritone than a bass for Mephistopheles, but from a vocal-acting(ie. throaty chuckles)and dramatic point of view he is spot on. The chorus do what they can with what they're given, which in all fairness is not a lot, and sing very nicely.

Gilliam's production doesn't fare so well. The staging has moments, the Minuet of the Will o' the Wisps is shocking and creepily grotesque, serving as an atmospheric background for a lively if also weird Kristellnacht. Even better though is a thrillingly staged and visually striking Ride through the Abyss. Everything else does not come across as well. The ideas the production has on the whole just doesn't come together, especially when it jumps from First World War to the Nazis with no explanation and while theatrical it just doesn't gel well with the story. It also makes a serious story and historical-event(s) seem flimsy and inappropriately ironic. Visually, I also wasn't so sure. I loved the Ride through the Abyss' visuals, but overall it was a production that was expensive but looked rather cheap with garish colours and the performers made up to look like a hodge-podge of characters. The orchestral climax was staged in a way that would have worked much better in a film, here it was just too much. For instance Mephistopheles looks every inch a Nazi leader, but Faust reminded me of the anti-hero character from Eraserhead which just jarred.

All in all, has good musical values but the production doesn't come together and is likely is offend some viewers. 4.5/10 Bethany Cox


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