Devilish fun with Faust at the Royal Opera House
19 April, 2019 — By Michael White
Photo: Tristram Kenton
IT was the kind of drama-at-the-opera that has legendary potential: opening night, the lead soprano falls sick, and a worldwide search tracks down a substitute. In Germany. She jumps on a plane, arrives at 5pm, is walked through a production she has never seen… ready for curtain-up at 7.
So it was at Royal Opera House last week for the opening night of Gounod’s Faust, adding a tension to the show that no one would have wanted though it was undoubtedly exciting.
Mandy Fredrich, the replacement, didn’t exactly throw herself into the role of Marguerite, clinging to the set and barely taking her eyes off the conductor. But she got through it well enough. The audience was on side.
And this is in any case one of Covent Garden’s most enjoyable long-running productions: a big-theatre show first staged by David McVicar in 2004 that revels in its own theatricality and does dazzling things with the combined religion and eroticism that are Gounod’s trademarks.
Relocating the action from Renaissance Germany to 19th-century Paris, it plays like Les Miserables but with more fun. Erwin Schrott is a commanding Mephistopheles with an appropriately devil-may-care sense of humour. Michael Fabiano in the title role sings beautifully.
And the whole thing is a good choice for the next live cinema screening from the ROH, showing 30 April in cinemas across London including the Hampstead Everyman, JW3 and Vue Finchley Road.
• Faust is at the Royal Opera House, Bow Street,Covent Garden, WC2E 9DD, 7pm, on April 18, 25, 30 and May 3, 6, 020 7304 4000, www.roh.org.uk