Arrigo Boito’s “Mefistofele” is a piece of superb moments that has but to discover a secure place in the usual repertoire. Regardless of being derived from Goethe’s famed “Faust,” nice arias for the main leads, and a tremendous half for any opera home’s refrain, it has by no means been as fashionable as different variations of the identical supply materials(ie: Gounod’s “Faust”).
In reality, the Metropolitan Opera had not mounted its present manufacturing of the opera since 2000, making the efficiency on Nov. eight, 2018, a relatively uncommon event. So it was undeniably with nice curiosity that I went to the Met to see the revival of this uncommon gem.
On the entire, the night was a relatively fascinating one within the sense that many elements of its have been fairly wonderful and but there loomed a way that one thing was lacking in the midst of all of it.
In some ways, this all got here down to at least one man – maestro Carlo Rizzi.
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Polished However Rushed
Let’s make one thing clear – beneath Rizzi’s baton, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra sounded pristine. Each texture, each sound, each dynamic marking was match as an alternative like a grasp craftsman at work. The aural stability within the ensemble, from the bubbling violins firstly of the second act to the woodwind squeals all through Mefistofele’s opening moments within the prologue, to the climax of the Walpurgis Night time, was exact as could possibly be. I doubt I’ve heard the Met Orchestra sound this polished all season.
And but, it didn’t all the time add as much as its full dramatic or emotional potential for one main purpose – Rizzi appeared to be in a rush all night time lengthy.
“Mefistofele” may be fairly the prolonged opera and the fixed pauses between scene modifications within the manufacturing (extra on that later) appeared like a cause to need to transfer together with the proceedings; nevertheless it simply appeared like Rizzi was making an attempt to satisfy some mandate of ending by 11 p.m. EST, as famous in this system.
The opening prelude with its alternation between efficiency and calm didn’t actually construct or develop to any specific climax, making the music really feel repetitive. Loud moments have been all the time the identical degree of loud and gentle have been all the time on the similar quantity.
The identical could possibly be stated for the choral sections that closed the prologue. Boito constructed one ensemble on prime of one other, the music repeating and rising till we get an apotheosis within the reprisal of “Ave Signor.” However the music rushed by so shortly that by the point the climax happened it felt extra prefer it simply appeared as an alternative of being an arrival level on a musical journey. Boito wrote in sempre crescendo via the ultimate few pages of the prologue till an enormous triple forte explosion on “E s’erge a Te.” However that sempre crescendo was by no means felt even when the climax did seem and was powerfully sustained to the ultimate notes. When this specific part returned on the finish of the opera, the impact was very a lot the identical, leaving a way of dissatisfaction with the chic ending of the opera.
The sense of a rushed tempo was felt all through and affected the soloists mightily. The tempo shifts in “Sono lo spirit che nega” all function rallentando and but it felt like Christian Van Horn had no area to form these phrases earlier than having to leap into the Allegro Sostenuto or Più mosso con fuoco sections.
The tempi have been so quick through the opening Walpurgis night time choral sections that the articulation with the refrain members wasn’t fairly clear within the pattering (although to be truthful, the quicker tempi on this part added nice pleasure general). The Act two quartet lacked cohesion between the soloists and the orchestra. The ensemble to shut the fourth Act was imprecise with the propulsive tempi seemingly outpacing a few of the soloists. “Lontano lontano,” with its reflective and intimate temper, is the sort of second the place you may give your soloists a way of enlargement; the duet by no means fairly hit its stride emotionally as a result of it felt extra just like the mission was to get via it.
The one most affected by this lack of musical respiration room was tenor Michael Fabiano, a passionate artist that provides it his all. “Dai campi, Dai Prati,” marked Larghetto within the rating, builds to a climactic B flat for the tenor. Whereas Fabiano’s sound projected fairly properly all through the aria and his legato was strong, he didn’t appear to have the time to form the aria to develop to its climax.
One may say that this part is quite temporary and that not each aria must really feel expansive, however the identical occurred with the tenor within the extra well-known “Giunto sul passo estremo.” Right here Faust displays on his dream, however Rizzi appeared to be pushing alongside Fabiano all through; Boito’s rating permits alternatives for rallentando on greater notes and on the finish of sure phrases, however it simply by no means occurred. Regardless of that, the tenor sang passionately all through the aria and did get to watch the fermata at its shut. Different passages that noticed an identical impact included “Se tu mi doni un’ora di riposo” in Act one and “Ascolta, vezzoso angelo mio.” You possibly can sense Fabiano feeling considerably restrained in these moments, muting his potent artistry.
In fact, Boito isn’t Puccini and in a way, he’s undeniably nearer to Verdi in fashion. However there isn’t a doubt that even the works of Verdi, regardless of their fixed ahead drive, afford singers ample area to construct strains; Boito affords these alternatives as properly, however they didn’t appear to be taken on this night time.
And it have to be stated that quicker tempi undeniably made sure sections much better (the Walpurgis Nights and celebrations in Act one), however when every part felt prefer it was in a rush to maneuver ahead, you sensed that some pages of music have been being glanced at however by no means actually explored as a lot as others. This created a way of imbalance within the rating and its dramatic execution.
Maybe Rizzi prefers quicker tempi. Or perhaps he was tasked with ending by a sure hour. And also you truthfully can’t fault him when he has to deal with the manufacturing.
Tons to Assume About
To be clear, Robert Carsen’s interpretation of the work is sort of fascinating and interesting visually and intellectually.
The curtain rises and we’re introduced with one other curtain, which additionally rises to painting a proscenium. Carsen, the grasp of theater inside a theater, makes use of the identical trick right here, however it works inside the context of the story. The Prologue opens with Mefistofele and the Refrain of Angels making a discount for Faust’s soul. These supernatural beings, the manufacturing postulates, are watching and observing us in the actual world and to that impact we see Angels seated in balcony seats onstage all through the night. Mefistofele seems from the orchestra pit with a violin, suggesting that he was performing through the opening prelude, breaking the fourth wall. On the shut of the Walpurgis Night time, he assumes the position of the conductor, his again to the viewers as he “directs” the musical and bodily proceedings. In different moments he actually pushes the angels out of their seats and assumes the position of spectator.
We see plenty of ladders used all through to discover the rise and fall of its respective characters. Margherita’s scenes happen on a stage inside the stage, emphasizing her imprisoned state from the beginning of the work; she is not any much less a prisoner throughout her romantic moments with Faust than throughout her demise scene.
Helen of Troy is about up as a performer of the theater, her love for Faust nothing greater than a setup that might be revealed on the shut of the act when Carsen showcases the “audience” onstage; this “audience” is definitely dealing with the actual viewers within the opera home, suggesting a mirror picture of us. Match that with the truth that Faust enters the fourth act from the orchestra seats within the corridor and it’s clear how Carsen is toying with everybody’s sense of what’s and isn’t actual.
Because the fourth Act curtain falls, Faust is lastly left off the “stage” onstage, and his life is able to finish with him realizing that each one he hoped for was mere phantasm or tragedy. Throw within the unimaginable imagery of the angels and the manufacturing is a real jaw-dropper visually and intellectually.
However it comes with an enormous caveat – all of this requires fixed scene modifications all through, leading to a pause at finish of each single scene. This isn’t conducive to a fluid night on the opera and it could be this that motivated Rizzi’s speedy tempi.
All the aforementioned withstanding, the three principal artists have been in strong type vocally and dramatically.
Christian Van Horn, who lately gained the Richard Tucker Award, took on the position of Mefistofele in a vocally-elegant show. With a relatively sturdy vibrato and potent sound, Van Horn was an imposing vocal presence because the satan himself, his very first utterances of “Ave Signor!” delivered with mocking tone. All through the prologue, his emphasised a sardonic tone in his supply that hinted at aggression in some moments. His confrontation with Faust a couple of scenes featured a way of power and confidence.
He formed the opening phrases of “Son lo Spirito che nega” with a somewhat robust related legato that made it really feel like a slithering snake spouting its venom. Maybe a number of the decrease notes didn’t have the efficiency of his fuller center and higher reaches, nevertheless it labored in creating the portrait of the satan in all his evil. He discovered methods to make his repetitions of “No” totally different and recent, enjoying up the comedic facet of his repeated renunciations.
If the opening aria was a virtuosic show, his interpretation of “Ecco il mondo” was extra muted and reflective; Van Horn’s sound was tamer on this solo, inviting the listener into his world. He undoubtedly relished his alternative to conduct the choral plenty on the shut of the Walpurgis Night time and his imposing determine additionally made him a dominant bodily presence all through. He did appear a bit stiff bodily because the opera progressed, although with numerous performances left, he’s more likely to settle into the position.
Depth & Ardour
Regardless of what was talked about earlier about sure passages within the work, Fabiano was in advantageous type vocally. There was by no means a second the place you couldn’t hear him challenge into the cavernous Met. His older Faust was a bit extra muted when it comes to his depth, however his arrival within the second Act noticed him sing with unbridled ardour. All through you bought a way of a person craving for extra, his sound always pushing its personal limits to thrilling impact.
His best moments undoubtedly got here within the ultimate two acts. His cries of “Helena” have been full of rapturous pleasure and elation that suited the visceral ping in his timbre. However the epilogue is the place he shone with a passionate “Giunto sul passo estremo” and particularly in driving over the refrain on the very finish. The climactic B pure on “Baluardo m’è il Vangelo!” didn’t come off as cleanly as a few of his different excessive notes, however his voice did energy via the unimaginable ensemble constructing round him.
If there was one second the place Fabiano appeared a bit indifferent dramatically it got here when he noticed the pictures of Margherita mirrored to him through the Walpurgis night time. Right here, Faust begins to watch a younger lady being tortured and ultimately realizes that it’s the lady he liked and left behind. Fabiano’s supply right here appeared fairly distant emotionally, the phrases not fairly constructing in pressure towards the belief. It was one blight on an in any other case emotionally partaking interpretation.
Huge Stars In Huge Moments
As Margherita, Angela Meade displayed some strong center and decrease voice, notably when she denounces the satan in her dying scene. The famed aria “L’altra notte” featured robust legato, although there was a little bit of fuzziness of pitch when she ascended into the upper reaches of her voice, notably on the excessive A pure on “per farmi delirare.” The primary cadenza additionally lacked precision within the coloratura passages, the notes mixing one into one other with out distinction. She adjusted for the second cadenza, taking extra time to construct every phrase extra clearly main as much as the excessive B pure; sadly, she was unable to maintain that prime word easily when she began it with pianissimo tone and tried a crescendo out of it. The reprisal of the primary melody within the aria was noticeable for a delicate aggression that Meade added to her interpretation, emphasizing Margherita’s distress.
She was in all probability at her greatest on the shut of the scene as she begs for mercy and forgiveness from God. Right here she threw warning to the winds and delivered the passage with depth to spare, her ample quantity resonating fiercely within the Met.
However the actual stars of the present have been undoubtedly the members of the refrain who’re tasked with a ton of difficult passages all through the orchestra. The ensemble, regardless of some tough patches in a few of the speedier sections, appeared to seek out methods to marvel with their cohesion of sound. The fugal passages that finish the Walpurgis Night time have been in all probability the large spotlight of the night with a razor-sharp precision and intense power.
On the entire, there have been some nice particular person moments from all the main gamers, however it summed as much as a piece that felt considerably emotionally and dramatically inert. It ought to be fascinating to see how this manufacturing progresses from right here on out and the way the items all come collectively.