This is one of my favorite CD's. The work itself is electrifying, passionate Berlioz. Lust, drama, Heaven, and Hell. In Le Damnation of Faust, you have it all! Lewis is is an excellent Faust. His voice brings out the best in Berlioz's vocal writing. von Otter is a sympathetic Marguerite. The King of Thul ballad shows off her breath-taking voice and a drammatic yet innocent presence which I had never heard in her voice before this recording. I am normally not a big fan of Terfel, but in this recording he makes the perfect, seductive, evil, and even sometimes loveable Mephistopheles. The shining star of this recording, however, is von Halem as the Brander. His rather gruff tone allows the listener to picture a grotesque, hairy, and loud drunk. von Halem is the most believable Brander I have heard. The background "bar" chorus and Mephistopheles' "Flea Song" make the Ratskeller scene wild and vulgar--just as it should be! The chorus and orchestra also do a fantastic job of creating a frightening scene as demons in Hell, as Mephistopheles triumphs at conquering Faust's soul. The work ends in a well-conducted contrast when Marguerite is called into heaven.
The orchestra and Chung are top-notch in this recording. Chung brings out the contrasts and various dimmensions in the score. Great conductor, great soloists, great orchestra and chorus...what more could you ask for?