Gounod’s Faust, based on Goethe’s work about a man who makes a deal with the devil, imagines how such a partnership could aid its protagonist in the wooing of a beautiful woman, Margueritte. Staged by Kevin Newbury at the Lyric Opera, Faust is an aural and visual feast, even if aspects of its execution are at times overwhelming.
Faust as Artist
In Goethe’s original, the character of Faust (Benjamin Bernheim) is generally an old philosopher who realizes that his quest for knowledge has been mostly futile. Desperate for a second chance at youth, he trades his soul to Mephistopheles (Christian Van Horn) in a deal that allows him to re-experience the pleasures of life he missed out on. In Newbury’s production, Faust is an artist, whose art--inspired by John Frame--has failed to provide him the meaning he had hoped it would. Frame’s art is brought to life in inventive projections which envelop the stage, combining sculpture and stop motion with the actors on stage, some in elaborate masks.
Top-Notch Talent in Lyric’s Opera
In his American debut, Bernehim is exceptional, effortlessly imbuing Gounod’s lyrics with emotion and skill. The same can be said for the prowess on display from Van Horn as Mephistopheles and Ailyn Perez as Marguerite, whose baritone and soprano voices filled the Lyric’s grand auditorium beautifully. While English supertitles assist in the storytelling by translating the characters’ French, the emotional subtext behind every note is crystal clear as performed by the cast.
Gorgeous Visuals Abound in Faust
John Frame’s visual work is an interesting layer to add to the story of Faust and certainly makes for a richly designed production; however, for this reviewer, a newcomer to Gounod’s take on the tale, at times it distracted from the action on stage. Even so, when combined with Gounod’s beautifully orchestrated opera (expertly conducted by Emmanuel Villaume), the shadowy, textured lighting and towering scaffolds and structures make for an entrancing experience. Equally lavish are Vita Tzykun’s costumes, which feature bright pops of color--an orange plaid for Mephistopheles and a greenish-blue plaid for Faust. Overall, the design is as textured and detailed as the performances on stage.
Abundant in concept and beautiful performances, Lyric’s Faust is a detailed, sensory experience. While the shadowy nature of its visuals at times obfuscated the storytelling for this reviewer, opera lovers and neophytes alike will no doubt find much to like in this gorgeously produced opera.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Lyric Opera of Chicago
20 N Upper Wacker Dr.
Thru March 21st
March 6th, 9th, 12th, and 15th at 7:30pm
March 18th and 21st at 2:00pm
Read more about him and other Picture this Post writers on the Picture this Post Masthead.
Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Brent Ervin-Eickhoff