Faust @ The Dame Joan

Inset Pic- Michael Fabiano as Faust with Teddy Rhodes as Mephistopheles in Opera Australia’s production of FAUST. Featured Pic- The Company. Pics Lisa Tomasetti

Succumb to Mephistopheles power in this lavish, opulent, thrilling production. Visually stunning, musically glorious, with three superb leading performers, this is a magical highlight of this year’s Opera Australia season.

The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under the energetic, dynamic and enthusiastic baton of maestro GuillaumeTourniaire delivered a lustrous, splendid performance of Gounod’s lush, hugely expansive score with an edgy tempo.The ensemble chorus work, under the direction of Anthony Hunt, was inspiring and well-balanced.

The plot of Gounod’s opera is deeply rooted in religion, superstition and morality. In Charles Francois Gounod’s opera, aged and despairing philosopher Faust (Michael Fabiano) sells his soul to the devil, Mephistopheles (Teddy Tahu Rhodes), in exchange for youth and the chance to pursue a beautiful innocent, Margeurite (Nicole Car).

Director Sir David McVicar has transposed the story from 16th century Germany to the composer’s own 19th century Paris. This production originally premiered in London at Covent Garden in 2004.

The show has been perfectly cast by Opera Australia and has been recreated with immense attention to detail by Bruno Ravella, the director of this revival.

Theatricality is everywhere. The underlying setting in Charles Edwards’ painterly set design is stunning. Mephistopheles and Faust are in a theatre, the church setting is a theatre, we are in a theatre, and it’s all a superb and deftly handled performance, which invites reflection and discussion about sex, religion and guilt, amongst other things.

Every opportunity to give the opera  colour and movement has been exploited by choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan who choreographed a tight, hot and spicy can-can for the second act Cabaret L’Enfer and then a disturbing , rather bizarre and demonic ballet for the fifth act Walpurgisnacht, combining traditional ballet technique from Giselle  and Les Sylphides ( but barefoot) -with a touch of Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling -which becomes a nightmarish, riotous orgy.

The chorus was in excellent voice and enjoying the full spectacle of  grand opera- the well known rousing Soldier’s Chorus was splendidly done (reminiscent of Les Miserables.

American tenor Michael Fabiano with his matinee idol good looks is magnificient in the eponymous role, with masses of vocal power and a true,smooth, vocal line. When he unleashes all of his power at the top of his range, it captivates and gives one shivers. He’s also developed an excellent characterisation of great depth from the weak, tottering old man of the first act to the adventurous, love-struck young man in the final Act. His’ Salut! Demeure chaste et pure’ was exquisitely shaped, full of light and shade, and featured a marvellous ringing top note. Fabiano has a magnetic stage presence and is convincing in all his personas.

In this version, Méphistophélès is shown as an elegant conman showman, a decadent chameleon, from dandy to pimp to pusher (even hidden Baroque statue) and even includes the devilish humour of wearing a dress in full drag.

Tall Teddy Tahu Rhodes is in his absolute element-, saturnine and worldly. Satan is a master trickster who laughs at superstition and wears a crucifix . Tahu Rhodes  commands the stage with oceans of charm and a gloriously seductive voice.

Nicole Car’s vocal performance as innocent, betrayed Marguerite is excellent, — sensitive musically and beautifully pure. Her performance of the famous Jewel Song  was a fabulous example of how to combine operatic voice with a strong acting technique and she ‘brought the house down’ with it.

Handsome Giorgio Caoduro impressed with his incredibly moving aria Avant de quitter…another show highlight.

Dominica Matthews makes a short but impressive appearance as Marguerite’s friend and neighbour , the rather overblown Marthe, whilst Anna Dowsley brings a delicious sweetness and impetuosity to young Siebel.

The audience reaction at the conclusion was ecstatic and an extra performance has been scheduled because of public demand – quick ! run and book now if you can.

What would you sell your soul for ?

Running time 3 and ½ hours (approx ) including one interval
FAUST runs at the Joan Sutherland Theatre Sydney until March 13 with an extra performance just added on Monday March 9 at 6.30pm – on sale now.

Guillaume Tourniaire (until 28 Feb)
Anthony Legge
David McVicar
Bruno Ravella
Charles Edwards
Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Paule Constable
Michael Keegan-Dolan
Daphne Strothmann
Shane Placentino
Andy Morton

Michael Fabiano
Nicole Car
Teddy Tahu Rhodes
Giorgio Caoduro
Dominica Matthews
Anna Dowsley
Richard Anderson
Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra
Opera Australia Chorus

Based on the co-production by Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Opéra de Lille, and Fondazione Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, Trieste and first performed at Covent Garden.