The production and video direction are by British film-maker Ken Russell who puts his own stamp on the production. Russell told an interviewer he felt the plot was "silly" so he turned Marguerite into a young nun, eliminated the Walpurgis Night ballet, had Marguerite use sign-language for Valentin's deaf-mute children, and had Mephistopheles disrespectfully urinating in the stoup in church. However, the overall effect is visually engrossing, the vivid sets and costumes by Karl Toms are effective. And the singing is outstanding. Tenor Francisco Araiza handles the title role with confidence. Ruggero Raimondi, while he may not have the impressive lower register of many devils of the past, is a superb actor. Soprano Gabriela Benackova is in magnificent voice as the innocent Marguerite, and other major roles are impressively sung.
Double Tony Award winning stage director Desmond McAnuff’s production, hailed by the New York Times as “rich with ideas and theatrically daring”, presents Faust as an atomic scientist inhabiting a dark world shot through with Cold War resonances. Alongside Kaufmann, a typically gold-standard Met cast includes the “phenomenal” Rene Pape as Mephistopheles and the “ideally-suited” Marina Poplavskaya as Marguerite. Star conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin draws an “elegant, darkly textured performance” from the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.
…The great saving aspect of this performance surprisingly comes from Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya, who identifies herself totally with the role both vocally and dramatically.
Her King Thule ballad, the Jewel Song, her duets with Faust and the last scene are all delivered with great aplomb, and she really looks the part with a stunningly pure looking stage presence.
This production isn't appealing, with a French grand opera being cut to the bare bones, but it could have been much worse. The conducting is fine, and generally speaking on the musical side this is a sterling piece, though there are significant cuts and the Walpurgis Scene is non-existent. By A. F. S. Mui
Fortunately, this particular Faust , given live in Philadelphia in 1985, has both strong soloists and an idiomatic conductor. It´s one of the best live recordings I´ve heard of the opera, and if the stage production matched the audible level of intensity, it must have been a thrilling theatrical event, as well.Alain Vanzo was 57 at the time of this performance. He was the premier French lyric tenor of his generation, and probably had no match for tone or phrasing in this repertoire. -Arkiv Music-
This is French opera at his best, before this authentic style was gone: beautiful silver tones from a now lost period. I bought this record more than 40 years ago and it is still unpassed.
Caballe, Aragall, Plishka, et al are fantastic. Lombard refuses to think of Faust as a "war-horse". His interpretation is fresh, serious, and sensitive. His attention to detail is without peer. He has obviously lived with the score for some time and understands it. Rather than conducting down to it, he allows it to rise as z phoenix in the bright light of day.
Faust is a grand opera in five acts by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite, in turn loosely based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, Part 1. It debuted at the Théâtre Lyrique (Théâtre-Historique, Opèra-National, Boulevard du Temple) in Paris on March 19, 1859...