[Met Tour] CID:206540

Masonic Temple, Detroit, Michigan, Mon, May 23, 1966

Review 1:

Review of Collins George of the Detroit Free Press

At the Met" A 'Faust' to Remember

The Metropolitan Opera, before the customary glittering first night audience, opened its Detroit week at the Masonic Temple with a quite acceptably sung production of Gounod's "Faust." It was also clever and beautifully produced and contained, in the last act, a memorably sexy Walpurgisnacht scene. It is a work which has a special attraction for the Metropolitan. It is the first opera the company ever did. It is the work which opened the final season last fall in the old house in New York. And it is a universally popular work.

The production of the opera this season is a new one, by Jean-Louis Barrault, with sets and costumes by Jacques Dupont. One basic set is used in all the scenes of the opera, making for quicker between-scenes changes. The set is a semi-circular platform with three steps cut in front and ascending ramps at the sides. With the use of different backdrops, this basic set can become Marguerite's garden or Faust's study. It changed instantaneously from the setting for a wild orgy to Marguerite's austere prison cell.

The title role was sung by one of the Metropolitan's leading tenors, Nicolai Gedda, who has a wonderfully strong voice. In the manner of so many tenors, however, he has the tendency to scream rather than sing his highest notes, and occasionally was led off key by this screaming. Jean Fenn took the part of the innocent and betrayed Marguerite. Miss Fenn has both the looks and a sweet voice for the part, though in her less forceful passages this voice does not carry too well. These slight singing faults were not continually noticed, and decreased as the night wore on, but their presence makes the adjective for the performance "capable" instead of "superb."

Perhaps the finest voice on the stage was that of Cesare Siepi, who made a not very satanic Mephistopheles. In fact, he chose to portray the devil's impish aspects. And with his rusty black costume he looked more like a leprechaun who had made his home in a cold mine. But the essential evil of the character became more clear as the opera progressed. It was, an individual and thorough sincere characterization, one in which the evil of Mephistopheles became overt only gradually.

The ballet in the street fair scene in the first act illustrates just how much better this once-neglected arm of the opera company has become. The troupe did some beautiful dancing. But it reserved its most sensual effort for the orgiastic scene in the last act. It was probably the sexiest ballet yet put on by the Metropolitan. Some postures assumed by the dancers were so explicit that they bordered on bad taste. But if the aim was to present the carnality of evil, it really succeeded. There was nothing pale about this debauch. The whole work was carried along at a rather rapid pace by the conductor, George Prêtre.

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