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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Faust: Metropolitan Opera (Nézet-Séguin) [Blu-ray] [2014]
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on 4 May 2014
I have known this opera for 40 years, and own several cd recordings, and have seen several staged versions. There are very few dvd performances of Faust- which is sad: one of the greatest visual operas. For this dvd the main singers are all superb- all of them, really- absolutely sublime. The chorus sings well, but is quite wooden in its acting.
The problem is the production itself. To see the Faust story cast into the 20th Century is interesting as a concept. It doesnt really work though, as there are too many inconsistencies. Hence, my view, that if you do not know this opera it would be an AWFUL introduction! The Royal Opera dvd with Terfyl, Alagna and Georgiou is better, although that makes an interesting interpretation of the story. At least they do not ENTIRELY CUT the ballet, at the Met dvd does. In summary- excellent for those who already know the opera, and wish to see excellent performances by the soloists, and can blot out the strange setting.
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on 7 June 2014
I watched this on sky arts, it works surprisingly well but not without a number of anomalies.
To put it into perspective it works better than Wiener Staatsoper where Marguerite is a nun! It also works better than Teatro Coccia with Tonsini and Rigosa, In this the witches sabbath involves some strange activities in their underwear.
Back to the current review, The three leads are excellent, Rene Pape leads with a marvelous rendition of Mephistopheles Paplovskaya is a charmingly rural Marguerete and Kaufmann pretty good as Faust. Some very good voices and credible character representation. Other roles are also well sung with a special mention fir Michelle Losier as Siegel.
Highlights are Pape with "The Golden Calf" and the dance sequence at the end of act 1.
The sets however are something to be desired, They include a laboratory, a square in the town, a cardboard cutout of a house, a prison and a condemned cage. Non of these are of any note, often being suggestive rather than definitive.
The singer sewing machine in act 2 is a real star.
Paplovskayas Jewel song is a treat, such easy singing is a real treat.
The soldiers chorus in act 3 is also rather good.
The witches sabbath of beggars round a nuclear bomb looks incongruous and falls rather flat.
Lab technicians from act 1 appear from time to time and change the set.
At the end Marguerete climbs a scaffold to heaven and Faust drops dead in his lab.
Try the Royal Opera House version with Alagna and Tervil.
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on 16 April 2014
The main characters in this production were sung brilliantly with acting to match. Jonas Kaufman is a superlative singer and with his good looks a joy to look at. I did not agree with all of the production but only on minor points. I thought that musically the orchestra was excellent and very exciting at times. A most enjoyable Faust.
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on 10 April 2014
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on 13 October 2015
My star rating based on my giving five stars for the singing and the orchestra, while the staing barely merits one star and is just anothet example of how modern directors and producers labour under the misapprehension that they are vastly more important than the composer, the librettist, the singers, the orchestra and the conductor - not to mention the source.. The attempt to link the action to the Manhatton Project and make it 'relevant' for a public that is not in tune with the moral and religious ethos of the original story is rendered risible by the resoloutely Christian text; the attempt to evoke the horror of the 1sr World War as the soldiers return is likewise undermined by the martial words of the soldiers' chorus. According to the notes, the director sees the action as taking place in a split second of memory before Faust commits suicide, demoralised by his work as a nuclear scientist. So did the pact with the devil and the seduction of Marguerite ever happen? The more you try to work out what the director was thinking, the more muddled the production becomes.
It would probably be best watched with eyes closed were it not that the title role is sung by Jonas Kaufmann. Poplavskya is a very convincing Marguerite, expressing the character's transformation in every gesture as well as every word. There is an harshness in her voice in the final, sublime trio as she begs for God's pardon and holds both Faust and Mephistopheles at a distance. I am sure it works wonderfully in the live performance but am not sure about it for repeated listening. Dramatically, however, it is fully justified, and she closes radiently in the knowledge of her salvation. Rene Pape is a most urbane Mephistopheles, perhaps missing the depth and underlying menace of Terfel until the moment he tells Marguerite she is damned. The roles of Siebel and Valentin are beautifully sung.
The obvious comparison has to be with the ROH's performance of the opera with Gheorgiu, Alagna and Terfel which was televised years ago. On the basis that Alagna is Kaufmann's equal, and everything else is wonderful, I could wish I had that performance on the shelves.
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on 7 May 2014
Any director dealing with a well known and loved story such as Faust will always court controversy should he or she choose to change aspects of the production without good reason. Des McAnuff is a director of considerable note -Jersey Boys and Matilda on Broadway and former director of the Stratford Ontario Shakespeare Festival. He made the choice to set the action in the 1950's nuclear age. This causes a problem when Faust regains his youth. Once he makes his pact with Mephistopheles, Faust becomes young but the action reverts to the time at which the opera is usually set -the 19th century -I think during the Napoleonic wars? (hence the Soldiers Chorus).

None of this distracts from the gorgeous music and the handsome couple who play Faust and Marguerite (Jonas Kaufmann and Marina Poplovskya.) Both are wonderful and I particularly enjoyed the love duets at the end of Act II. It is a big, part for the soprano -more singing than anyone else and Poplovaskya seemed tired by the end -though she acted it wonderfully. Rene Pape is in imposing form as Mephisto and seems to enjoy the evil of the role. Kaufmann's burnished bari-tenor tone makes him a wonderfully dark and handsome Faust. Notwithstanding the dark tone, the top C is there in all it's glory in the gorgeous 'Salue Demure Chaste et Pure'. Michele Losier as Siebel and Russell Braun as Valentine sing well and perform their roles convincingly.

Give it a try! After all, this is the Metropolitan Opera!
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on 27 May 2014
An absolutely brilliant performance of Gounod's famous opera music with three top class soloists!! This recording was well worth the wait.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 March 2014
Des McAnuff, the director, realized that in a Western secular society , changes to the staging had to be made. But in such a manner, as to do justice to Gounod's score. He was writing for a contemporary audience, so McAnuff believes that if the staging is presented with vision and vitality, the music and the opera's rendition of the Faust myth can grip today's audience.

What inspired McAnuff, a theatre director, was the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which really changed the world forever. And he thinks that the Faust legend prophesied that in a very pertinent way. "Faust has really learnt everything. He's acquired ultimate knowledge, which I think applies in a horrifying way to the nuclear bomb and our ability to destroy ourselves. And I'm interested in the personal responsiblity that goes into that, and I think thats the Faustian journey right there."

This journey, takes place in a single instant and over time, the story is seen as an unfolding memory within the split second of the nuclear physicist's suicide in his lab. Faust never leaves the lab. But the stage settings change, showing his memory of the past. The first act is different to Act 3, which in turn is different to the ending. The laboratory is merely the frame work. The staging is minimalist. The costumes are inspired by the First World war, the 1920's and 1930's into the Second world war. This opera is about Faust selling his soul to the devil for his pleasure, and then having to pay the price- hence the expression the Faustian pact. The devil is a sauve, sophisicated Parsian dressed in a white suit and helps Faust to meet Marguerite. All wear costumes in keeping with the times. In Act 2, in the back ground are roses, with a green frame around it. Green and red are complementary colours , every artist knows that. Then the background turns into dusk.

Wait when you hear Kaufmann sing " Let me gaze at your face, in the pale moonlight, the stars of night." He floats his notes, making his voice sound like a lyrical tenor. When you hear these notes, you know why he is the greatest living tenor. Followed by Marguerite, Marina Poplavskaya, who was Desdemonia in a bluray production of Verdi's Othello.Wien Phil cond Muti. She Sings, "Silence! Happiness." She has a dark hue'd voice, which blends in with Kaufmann. When she recorded Othello in 2008, I predicted a big future for her and she has achieved that. Rene Pape is excellent as the worldly Mephistopheles and is masterful in the role. The character of the Devil does not change. Russell Braun is Valentin and is very good. The Met opera orchestra is conducted by Yannick Nezet-Seguin, who says, working with these singers makes it easy for him, regarding the ebb and flow. His tempi are swift. He likes to work with the stage director, so he knows what is happening on the stage and not just concentrate on the music. We have all seen productions where the stage director and the conductor are not on the same page.

Faust has a special place in the hearts of the Metropolitan opera House, for it was the first opera that opened the original opera house in 1883. The orchestra and the singers are as one, and over all the cast is very good, and the staging works. I can throughly recommend this bluray. I do like modern and traditional staged operas, so I can state that those who are of a traditional mind set, might like this one.

Booklet: Essay. The Art of the deal by W. Berger. 1080i HD 16.9. ALL REGIONS. 187 mins. LPCM 26 bit stereo. DTS-HD Master Audio 24 bit surround. Subtitles: English, French, German, Chinese, Korean. Recorded 2011. Bluray picture good.
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on 4 March 2015
I thought this was a very good performance of the music With some great voices, Rene Pape in particular as a very good Mephistopheles. However, although there is plenty of very good music in this opera I have never yet been really emotionally grabbed by what is going on. I didn't mind the modern take of the production though if you are new to this opera it is probably better to watch a more traditional production.
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on 3 March 2016
I think this is a super production from the musical point of view - too many stairs for my taste ....., but the singing and acting of
Jonas Kaufmann, Poplanova and Pape is superb , Gounod's music enchanting
Alltogether one of my favorite operas now, especially because of Kaufmann
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