Gounod’s Faust on the radio

Thanks to eyesometric for signalling it. I happened to be off today so I actually listened to the radio transmission from ROH.

I only became acquainted with Gounod’s Faust maybe a month ago, when AN pulled out. Without her1 I thought hey, that’s a good cast! I then investigated the opera which I found surprisingly listenable (I somehow had this prejudice that Gounod was stuffy… well, this one is still not the most exciting opera I’ve ever heard). Next I looked up the ticket situation which was of course hopeless this late in the game. So I resigned myself.

  • Faust: Joseph Calleja
  • Marguerite: Sonya Yoncheva
  • Méphistophélès: Bryn Terfel
  • Valentin: Simon Keenlyside
  • Wagner: Jihoon Kim
  • Siébel: Renata Pokupic
  • Marthe Schwertlein: Diana Montague

Conductor: Maurizio Benini | Royal Opera Chorus | Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Today I had the chance to listen. I think it was a good performance, although it’s hard to judge when you’re really unfamiliar with the work. The chorus and the orchestra sounded good to my ears; I did get rather into it at some point. I like Calleja’s manly yet gentle voice but I think I’ve only heard him once in I puritani Lucia2 with Damrau. He sounded rather lovely. Young Yoncheva has a pretty, secure voice herself. I wouldn’t say it blew my mind but I haven’t warmed up to this repertoire and its typical voices just yet, so it might just be me. In any case, the first impression wasn’t negative. Although I wish I missed the interview as she came off a bit over-excited in a jazz-hands kind of way. Sometimes the less you know about singers the better it is. BT sounded pretty good. He says this is the first time he’s sung Mephistopheles since when this very production first came out and is more relaxed now but I thought he could have been even more so. I don’t know that he was very threatening. Then again, I don’t know the work nor am I familiar with the French repertoire. Maybe that’s how it’s done. SK made absolutely no impression on me, I had to remind myself he was in this production. I know it was a small(ish? see what I mean?) role but no impression? Hm. On the other hand Pokupic and Montague did register (positively). Maybe I’m more used to women’s voices.

In spite of all my various moans, it was mostly entertaining. It did drag a bit when there was no singing for some time (perhaps there were ballets afoot? I wasn’t watching the one time I previously listened). I also thought the music for the Walpurgis Nacht bit was amusingly polite (fault of Gounod’s) if vaguely exotic. To think this was once the most popular opera. Tastes change. The ever-changing taste of the public and the critics is a very interesting subject which warrants its own post (if I can pull my thoughts together on it…).


  1. I dislike her. 
  2. Excuse me for mixing up my belcanto mad scenes 😉 
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About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on April 22, 2014, in audio only, baroque and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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