[Met Performance] CID:204000

Opening Night {81}, New production, General Manager: Rudolf Bing

Metropolitan Opera House, Mon, September 27, 1965

Debut : Jean-Louis Barrault, Jacques Dupont, Flemming Flindt

Faust (583)
Charles Gounod | Jules Barbier/Michel Carré
Nicolai Gedda

Gabriella Tucci

Cesare Siepi

Robert Merrill

Marcia Baldwin

Gladys Kriese

Russell Christopher

Sally Brayley

Patricia Heyes

Edith Jerell

Fern MacLarnon

Nira Paaz

Hans Meister

Howard Sayette

Georges Prêtre

Jean-Louis Barrault [Debut]

Jacques Dupont [Debut]

Flemming Flindt [Debut]

Faust received twenty-one performances this season.
Production a gift of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Production a gift of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Review 1:

Review of Alan Rich in the Herald Tribune

Met's 'Faust': Multi-National Cast With 3 Solid French Pillars

Nobody is ever going to turn Gounod's "Faust" into a dramatic opera, but the facsimile created by Jean-Louis Barrault for last night's Metropolitan opening is as reasonable as one could ever hope to see. Everybody agrees that the main problem with French opera at the Met is the lack of French singers, and this continues to be the case. What elevates the new "Faust." however, is the way a Swedish-Italian-American cast has been anchored into its responsibility by three solid pillars of the French manner. Mr. Barrault, as the stage director has had the biggest job, but his conception is beautifully integrated with the visual setting of Jacques Dupont and the swift, tense and mercurial musical leadership of Georges Pretre.

Mr. Dupont flirts a little dangerously with one of the most tiresome of modern stage gimmicks, sometimes known as Raiding the Louvre. His Kermesse scene is pure Brueghel; later on there is a touch of Dali or maybe Tanguy; the ballet is right out of Bosch and rather a lot of bosh, at that). But he always manages to stop short of obsessiveness. More on the ballet in tomorrow's paper, by the way, from Walter Terry. Mr. Dupont's finest inspiration has been to leave the stage largely open and uncluttered, relying on drops and side-pieces to suggest the atmosphere. Even the scene in Marguerite's garden, which is draped in what looks a little like Spanish moss from the Carolinas somehow transplanted into a German forest, never gets in the way of the action (if you can use that term for what goes on in this basically static opera).

Thus, Mr. Barrault is free to move his principals and choristers in strong, dynamic patterns. His staging of the Faust-Valentin duel is especially brilliant in its stark angularity, with Mephistopheles done up in this production as a seedy soldier-of-fortune and kept in constant bounding movement) kibitzing brilliantly and the glint of swords marvelously emphasized. The final apotheosis, which can be usually terribly embarrassing in the usual picture-postcard setting, is similarly stark and simple.

This, then, is a beautiful "Faust" to watch, strong and lively. Although its appearance to open the Met's last season in its old house was, as we all know, a sentimental inevitability, it is a production which has even more to promise for the future. Some of the effects, for example, are somewhat lost in the present house because of inadequate front-lighting. This is a problem in many productions, where principals get lost in shadows as soon as they come to the front of the stage. Presumably, this will no longer be a problem at Lincoln Center and the designers probably had this in mind.

Musically, there is also much to admire. Nicolai Gedda's Faust, has long been a cherishable adornment of the company, as is everything this marvelous tenor attempts. His acting may be rudimentary, but his clean, light voice curls itself wonderfully around the lyric lines. And when he sings a high C. as he did brilliantly at the end of "Salut, demeure," it is always part of the musical scheme, not merely a sop to his admirers. Gabriella Tucci's Marguerite new to the house, is also a beautiful achievement in most respects. She is not what you would call an instinctive stylist; one is always conscious that it is Miss Tucci singing Mr. Gounod's music, not Marguerite reacting to any kind of dramatic situation. But her manner is in its all-purpose way, quite genuinely touching, and her voice, although somewhat monochrome. is a lovely thing to hear,

Robert Merrill, Marcia Baldwin and Gladys Kriese gave solidly of their best qualities in other roles. There was a little huskiness in Mr. Merrill's "Avant de quitter," but it soon left him and his confrontation of Mephistopheles at the end of the Kermesse scene was keen and dramatic. In a sense, however, it was the Mephistopheles himself. Cesare Siepi, who dominated the proceedings. Mr. Siepi has sung the role exceptionally well before, but Mr. Barrault's conception of the part brought out new facets of the singer's art which the older "Faust" had somehow kept under wraps. Mercurial, witty, ardent (in the wooing of Miss Kriese) and menacing, Mr. Siepi gave of himself to an extent that eclipsed everything he has hitherto accomplished at the house.

The opera, by the way, is being given virtually uncut; only an aria for Siebel which Gounod added later has been left out. The scene between Siebel and Marguerite before the Cathedral Scene, which nobody in town seems to remember having heard before, has been restored, along. of course, with all the ballet music. If you can't have too much of "Faust." that should be good news indeed. But even if "Faust'" is something other than your favorite opera (hear, hear!) there is much to admire in this new production. It is work of high intelligence, dramatic virtuosity and imagination. It closes out an era at the Met, but bodes well as a standard for the future.

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