This visual production joins the growing list of nihilistic efforts to contaminate the soul of opera. The tactics are familiar by now --- a first rate cast to satisfy the ear, while the stage production does all it can to destroy, for the eye and the judgment, the very world the music and the lyrics are indicating. The intention is to replace beauty with ugliness, and replace moral poise with various forms of collapse, and none of this in keeping with the outlook of the music. For a detailed inventory of how Gounod's lovely opera has been desecrated by this stage production, see the many viewer criticisms on the American Amazon website (Amazon.com). The American viewers are far less complacent than the opinions given here, and they are numerous enough to give prospective buyers a well rounded view, replete with specifics, before a buying decision is made and money splashed out. Alas, Gounod's lovely opera has been skinned alive and salt poured into its wounds by this stage production.
Everybody agrees the singing is first rate. It's the ugly staging and the jeering at the finer aspects of the story that is so disagreeable and repellent. With the Jewel Song, we see Marguerite (as a black garbed nun!) greedily grabbing jewels with avarice and rejoicing at the gleam added to the front of her habit, spinning around to grab for more, as if seeking a second winning lottery ticket, we lose all sense of her delicacy and quiet joy at being noticed by someone as unattainable as the dashing, young Faust. Compare this traducing of Marguerite's purity with Gounod's and, in the same vein, with Schubert's delicate song of her heart stopping when she catches just a glimpse of his noble form ("sein edler Gestalt"). Ken Russell's kidney punches never let up and the present production will surely resonate with followers of Christopher Hitchens. Unless you're a Hitchens' fan and love to see forests chopped down, be very wary.
If you really are after the music, instead of splashing out £16 for this exercise in visual nihilism, there's the beautiful Pretre performance on CD, with Domingo, Freni, Ghiaurov and a lively, energetic chorus that makes the rafters ring. The complete opera is available, though I'm delighted with the highlights (at a more affordable price). The quality of the CD content is such that it puts me where I want to be. Ciao!