“Satan of The Opera”: The Opening of “Faust” at The Vancouver Opera Festival 2019

The story of “Faust” is a German folk-tale, based on the historical Johann Georg Faust (1480-1540). The Faust legend has been the pinnacle of many literary, cinematic, and musical works that continuously represent the “Faustian” battles of life — in more simple terms when a person surrenders their moral integrity in order to be rewarded with power and success. In the early 1800s, German author & playwright, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, wrote the tragedy of “Faust”. The first part that closely follows the German legend, was published in 1808 and the second in 1832 after his death.

What I find to be the most enticing element of the story of Faust is the cleverness of the battle between simple Christian moral; the dichtomy of “good and evil” that almost all humans hold. Goethe took this notion that was first seen in this German legend and created a beautiful hybrid between a play and an extended poem, Goethe’s two-part “closet drama” is true of epic range that provided the foundation for later composers and writers to continue this epic battle for centuries to come.

In 1859, French composer Charles Gonoud scored a five-act opera, Faust, that is loosely based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, Part One. It debuted at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris on 19 March 1859.

On April 27th, 2019 I, Miss Mephistopheles, had the honour of attending the opening of the Vancouver Opera’s opening of “Faust Opera”, directed by François Racine and conducted by Jonathan Darlington. French-Canadian direction Racine emphasizes on the story of Marguerite (the love of interest of Dr. Faust), similar to the Gonoud’s work that balanced the story of Goethe’s play as well as Michael Carré’s “Faust et Margurite”.

The opening of the Opera begins with the tale of the isolated and anguished Dr.Faust, whom is seen begging the Devil, Mephistopheles, to rid of him of his agony of old-age and desolation. Of course, Mephistopheles grants the naive doctor all his desires and lures the pure Margurite into his arms, but as they say “Be careful with what you wish for”, as Faust will be faced with his debt. From there, the well-crafted composition of Jonathan Darlington carries the audience through the dramatic love-story of Marguerite and Faust.

Faust – Robert Pomakov and chorus – photo Tim Matheson.

François Racine smoothly directed the narrative of the docile Marguerite, interpreting the clever engima that is woved within the tale of Faust, and how he [Faust] goes to the most extreme lengths to satisfy his primary desires of lust and love, by selling his soul to the Devil, whereas Marguerite is made up of “paradoxes and contradictions of love and hatred, then follows in the Devilish path of madness” as the director, François Racine, explains his work.

Faust, the Opera, appropriately consists of the five-part Opera split between two acts. The first part is an hour and thirty-seven minutes long and constitutes of Acts 1-3, while Act 2 is forty-five minutes long and concludes the story with Acts 4-5. Paying homage to the original “Faust Opera” that was first produced at the Théâtre-Lyrique in Paris (1859), the Vancouver Opera’s Faust is in French with English subtitles projected above the stage.

Marguerite (Simone Osborne) and Faust (David Pomeroy) – photo by Tim Matheson

As a dear fan of the Faust-tale, the overall production of the Opera was absolutely fantastic! The cast was absolutely phenomenal, especially “Méphistophélès” played by prize-winner Opera singer Robert Pomakov. He captures the quick-witted scoundrel of a Devil that is Méphistophélès that left me in full-smiles throughout the over two-hour production. Moreover, Simone Osborne (playing Marguerite) and David Pomeroy (playing Faust) also knocked it out of the park, or should I say theatre, with their breathing taking vocals.

From the beautiful staging put together by the skilled Theresa Tsang and absolutely elegant costume designs crafted by the Dominique Guidon, and consultant Parvin Mirhady, you cannot look away for a near-second from the capitivating tragedy that is Faust. The the production of Faust by the Vancouver Opera is a sensational way to spend your evening.

This third season of the Vancouver Opera Festival explores the theme of Fairytales & Fables, consisting of Rossini’s popular La Cenerentola (Cinderella) and Charles Gonoud’s Faust. the celebration officially opened on April 27th with performances of the mainstage festival operas and the celebration continues with a dynamic series of programs, panels and performances daily from April 27th to May 5th.

Festival highlights include the world premiere of Brian Current’s The River of Light in co-production with the Vancouver Bach Choir on May 3 for one performance only. One of Canada’s leading composers, Brian Current conceived this exciting large-scale oratorio for chorus, soloists and orchestra in a multi-movement composition.

The CBC Chamber Music Series returns to CBC Studio 700. These short, original chamber music concerts performed by members of the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and Chorus and invited guests to feature music inspired by Fairytales and Fables. Artists will include the Bergmann Piano Duo, members of the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program, and members of the Standing Wave Ensemble.

Vancouver Opera presents Opera Off Site on May 1st; pop-up performances at the Main Street Brewing Company and a screening of the 1926 black and white film adaptation of Faust at the Fox Cabaret featuring live accompaniment and a special presentation of Fenlon & Fenlon featuring soprano Rachel Fenlon.

“Our Festival is evolving to be an inclusive event showcasing the finest work of Vancouver Opera as well as many of our community partners,” says Vancouver Opera General Director, Kim Gaynor. “We hope to make opera more accessible by breaking down the perceived barriers to attending and inviting everyone to take part in the celebration.”

Tickets and Info: Vancouver Opera Ticket Centre 604 683 0222 or vancouveropera.ca

Until next time Interwebs! 🕸


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