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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THEY FLED TO BLISS OR WOE
This DVD has completed my conversion. All my life I have been used to Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust as a concert work, and I have had no particular view as to whether it would be suitable for staging. The stage-production here is controversial and even provocative, but it has left me in no doubt at all that the work does not reveal its full stature and significance...
Published on 19 Nov 2003 by DAVID BRYSON

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars strange but watchable
I have only heard this previously as a concert performance and love the orchestration of Berlioz. Faust legend has also always fascinated me. Hence my purchase. Initially I was bewildered by the masses of people carrying milk churns, and Faust barely distinguishable from the rest. My attention was distracted from the brilliance of the music by the strange staging. As the...
Published on 21 Mar 2011 by I. Zaneres


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THEY FLED TO BLISS OR WOE, 19 Nov 2003
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This DVD has completed my conversion. All my life I have been used to Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust as a concert work, and I have had no particular view as to whether it would be suitable for staging. The stage-production here is controversial and even provocative, but it has left me in no doubt at all that the work does not reveal its full stature and significance unless it is enacted. That Berlioz was a maverick I take to be a truism. Here is one of the deepest and most searching parables surely in all literature. Goethe’s Faust is not a tragic hero in the Shakespearian sense, with a tragic failing leading to his downfall and death. He is a type of all mankind, embodying the maxim that Stapledon enunciated as Find your calling…or be damned. He is full of ennui, Weltschmerz and general alienation and dissatisfaction. He is not evil or corrupt, but he has hidden the talent that is death to hide, and he is largely a lost soul before Mephistopheles sees an easy prey and unerringly completes the process until all that is needed is his final signature, quickly and casually provided.
Heard and not seen, Berlioz’s Faust is largely a lyrical work. There are intermittent ‘effects’ indeed, and the final ride to the abyss seems to me one of the most thrilling in all music, understated as only a master of hyperbole and overstatement would know how to do; but an astonishing amount of the score is ‘absolute’ music more notable for melody than for overt drama and consisting in large part of instrumental interludes and songs. Now stage the work and see what happens. The music is transformed into a sublime commentary and magnification as the tragedy unfolds with neither haste nor delay. I took in the staging in an impressionistic way, not an analytical one. Were the strange milk-churns that Faust and the others carried on their backs their souls, their selves, or what were they? They were a burden and load of some kind. Faust starts dressed in pure white and progressively dons black clothing like Mephistopheles. I felt no need to ‘understand’ it in any detail, as I had my work cut out to get some better understanding of whole overall theme.
The musical direction impressed me favourably. I suspect that in a concert performance I might have found the tempi erring on the slow side, but even there that would be a good fault, and of course a concert performance is precisely what this is not. Paul Groves has a very innocent face, not my usual idea of Faust but not an ineffective or inappropriate one either. My first impression, with ears accustomed to Gedda in the part, was that his vocal timbre was on the light side, but it is a very attractive voice purely as a voice, he certainly does not lack power or show any sense of strain, and apart from one grisly undershoot in his duet with Marguerite he convinced me. Marguerite herself is the formidable Vesselina Kasarova and as you would expect hers is an intense rather than a tranquil reading of the part. Again not my usual idea of how to do it, but that is a matter of my temperament and habituation, not any attempt at objective assessment. Mephistopheles is the no less formidable Willard White, and to my eyes and ears he IS the part, very effectively lit at his first appearance and dominating the light-toned Groves in a way that I found just right.
This is far more of a work for grown-ups than I had ever suspected. The quirkiness that I have always tended to associate with Berlioz simply vanishes in this production. It is quite clear that not everyone will react favourably to the sets or to the production generally. I can only say that I would not have expected myself to either, but I did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best !, 9 May 2009
By 
I have just sat through a performance of this at the recommendation of a friend. It is not a work that I would readily have viewed as a theatrical work given that my exposure to date is purely from recordings. What I can say without doubt is that its a long time since saw such an artistically convincing 'modern' opera production (even though the work is not considered an opera per se). This production is riveting from beginning to end. Williard White is exceptional as Mephistopheles, totally inside the role. Vesselina Kasarova is wonderful too as Marguerite and her big moment at the start of Act 4, in particular, showed the voice off as the marvellous seamless instrument that it is. Paul Groves initially seemed a little 'lightweight' for this music but within a short time I was won over too .... very credible in the role. The choir was super also and used effectively to enhance the drama.

I LOVED his production ..... pushing out the parameters and serving Berlioz spectacularly.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars strange but watchable, 21 Mar 2011
By 
I. Zaneres (west midlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Damnation De Faust [DVD] [NTSC] (DVD)
I have only heard this previously as a concert performance and love the orchestration of Berlioz. Faust legend has also always fascinated me. Hence my purchase. Initially I was bewildered by the masses of people carrying milk churns, and Faust barely distinguishable from the rest. My attention was distracted from the brilliance of the music by the strange staging. As the production continued the situation did not improve. I found myself closing my eyes for long periods to appreciate the quality of the voices. The choral sections were particularly good. The greenhouse in the middle of the set does not really gell, with chorus and soloists climbing up, or meandering in and out at regular intervals. The images projected within it seemed irrelevant, but did have a certain fascination. The booklet which attempts some explanation just sounded pretentious.
The music however is a different world, I have already touched on the chorus, but Paul Grove has a clarity of tone which I have only heard equalled occasionally, definately thrilling to the ears. Willard White vocally can also do no wrong his rich tones blending or contrasting with Grove. Vesselina Kasarova has a beautiful quality of voice, I have a few other operas with her, and at the top and bottom of her range she has power and a rounded quality. This role however is limited and does not make use of her acting powers, which from other productions are considerable. Upon a second watching I found it rather more pleasurable, as I stopped trying to make sense of the symbolism. 3stars may be a bit low, but 4 stars too high.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Salzburg taken over by Belgians, 22 Nov 2000
By 
Charles Voogd (Underwaterland) - See all my reviews
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La Damnation is one of my favorite classical works. For years you couldn't imagine it could be staged but the last ten years more and more operahouses did so. I remember a very impressive one in Amsterdam which started blue and gradually went red.
This live performance must have been an overwhelming experience. What they give you here is more than good singing, great acting, superb orchestral playing, but first the design - the way the whole production has been enhanced by special effects right out of Hollywood Studios - has to be mentioned.
Add to all this the great acting and singing of the bass Willard White in his big black overcoat. He is very impressive and with his big body he even manages to dance some steps like an alter ego of Michael Jackson (if you don't like that as a classical music buff you still have to see it because White really sings while doing this).
All in all very convincing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Damnation De Faust (DVD) (NTSC) Hector Berlioz, 5 Aug 2011
By 
Derek Vernon-morris (Greater Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Damnation De Faust [DVD] [NTSC] (DVD)
The Opera begins with beautiful lyrical harmonies, and Paul Groves, Tenor, matches this with a smooth and haunting voice as Faust. Berlioz is said to have composed with a lightness and instinct which was not customary during 1844 and 1845. He developed it from earlier concert pieces he composed after being impressed by the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published in 1828.
Goethe, like Sigmund Freud later, explored the concept of the Human Psyche as having various facets. Hence Faust has a Dark or shadow side, a Feminine side, a mind a body and a soul.
In this dramatisation Mephistopheles, sometimes interpreted as the Devil, is Faust's own Shadow, here portrayed very powefully by Bass/Barritone Willard White.
Marguerite as well as an object of desire, is also the Woman inside himself, and sometimes interpreted as his fragile soul, played and sung beautifully by Vesselina Kasarova.
The character of Brander in the Tavern scenes can be interpreted as part of Faust's Rational or impartial mind, sung by Andreas Macco.
Berlioz, Almire Gandonniere, and Gerard De Nerval wrote a libretto with a lot more scenes in addition to the concept of Goethe's philosophy.
The single set representing a modern city and factory with a central curved tower, somewhere in Hungary and Northern Germany, is very effective. With special film effects it becomes a red hot furnace, or Hell, and at one point features a larger than life image of conductor Sylvain Cambreling. Through this also is visible the total Eclipse of the Sun under which auspice a lot of the ritual and symbolic action takes place. The multi storey factory initially produces new people, so the chorus all wear white one piece protective overalls and this concept is on a par with industrialisation, and the Vorticist Movement in Art, where men and machines become one.
In this staging by Alex Olle, Carlos Padrissa, (La Fura dels Baus) Heinrich Brunke and Jaume Plensa, - Mephistopheles, Faust and Marguerite are smelted into a new person, and there is a short Epilogue in Heaven, or a return to innocence, when the people celebrate the return of the Sun after the Eclipse.
Whatever the Philosophy, the Staatskapelle Berlin, play a beautifull, dramatic, and lyrical realisation of the work lasting about 146 minutes, at the Salzburger Festpiele. The picture(16.9) and sound quality (pcm or 5.1)is excellent, and there is a 28 page booklet, and a choice of subtitles, with this impressive one disc set. Absolute Perfection.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Damnation!!, 24 April 2005
By A Customer
Great hopes for this performance. The problem with Salzburg is that it has to be trendy. So though we have (mainly) wonderful singing from the principals, especially Willard White, the production is a woeful distraction. You spend the entire first act wondering whether it's a chemical plant or a microcosm of science expressed in a retort..etc Doesn't compare then with the marvellous recording made by Gedda and Janet Baker and their voices are more flexible with the French.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An innovative staging of wonderful music, 22 May 2013
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A superb cast give a very musical performance of what is scarcely an opera (dramatic legend). The music is gorgeous.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Staggering production., 9 Feb 2009
By 
Doreen Hunt (France.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Damnation De Faust [DVD] [NTSC] (DVD)
Excellent in every way. Musical perfection and an unusual and spectacular setting and light show. Very modern, other operas could benefit from this kind of presentation.
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Damnation De Faust [DVD] [NTSC]
Damnation De Faust [DVD] [NTSC] by Alexandre Tarta (DVD - 2000)
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