Leeds Grand Theatre
Gounod’s version of Faust was written to entertain the bourgeoisie of 1859 Paris.
Its lyrical tunes carry no sense of musical or dramatic development. Even when Gounod introduces some pseudo-Wagnerian gravitas and vaguely sensual chromatics, there is no sense of Goethe’s flesh and blood human beings caught in a terrifying existential crisis.
Gounod concentrates on the Faust/Marguerite love story. He knows his audience have not come to the theatre to be disturbed. He gives us a clue when Faust asks only for youth, pleasure, girls, and Mephistopheles replies “Je puis contenter ton caprice” (it is sung in French – Gounod’s melodies and the language are inseparable) – “I can satisfy your whim.”
Consequently, co-directors Ran Arthur Braun and Rob Kearley have produced an artful caprice of a morality fable, with contrived and amusing devices along the way, which absorbs their modern techniques and feels delightfully old-fashioned.
The set is a series of constantly moving flats on to which are projected archly clever bits of video and digital imagery. The costumes are late 20th-century, the acting is late 19th. Musically, the evening is an exhibition of glorious bel canto. Orchestra and Chorus are sumptuous under conductor Stuart Stratford.
Tenor Peter Auty (Faust), soprano Juanita Lascarro (Marguerite) and bass-baritone James Creswell (Mephistopheles) are vocally gorgeous and unstinting, with Creswell in unbeatable form.
At Leeds Grand tonight and Oct 23, 25, 31 and Nov 3.