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La damnation de Faust at Glyndebourne

Did Berlioz intend to have La damnation de Faust staged? Perhaps he did. But the score had everything in it. So it's interesting to see any staged performance of this fantastic work.

What worked? I thought Richard Jones's direction for recreating various imaginary scenes on an austere stage set worked pretty well, from the beer halls along the Rhine through to Marguerite's prison. Christopher Purves was a good, not-too-intrusive Méphistophélès. Allan Clayton attacked the challenging role of Faust with sensitivity. Robin Ticciati waved his stick and the super LPO complied.



What didn't work? Sixty-odd singers in the chorus didn't do the work justice. Berlioz intended a big chorus sound. The velvety Songe de Faust sounded thin, and the big drinking song climax was disappointing. When Mark Elder did Faust recently with the Hallé (Feb 2019), there were over 100 men, plus a big children's chorus - Berlioz would like to have 200-300 children in the final scene - the Trinity Boys Choir was hardly audible. Why move the Menuet de follets to the end? The explanation in the programme book was half-hearted.

I'd say it was great to see an imginative staging of Faust, but I still prefer a concert setting where Berlioz's music speaks volume.

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