Faust, Santa Fe Opera, 2011 (photo by Ken Howard)
The high point of the evening was the playing of the orchestra, whose wind section in particular sounded unified, well-balanced, and colorful but in tune in the many beautiful solos and group moments in Gounod's beautifully orchestrated score. Conductor Frédéric Chaslin, in his first season as chief conductor of the Santa Fe Opera, gave the score plenty of room to breathe, not forcing any tempos too fast (in direct contrast to the work of Antonio Pappano under review last week), indeed prevailing on some of the more hasty singers to slow down and not rush things. Rubati and every little swell and other detail in the score were attended to, but not overdone. The string sound was suave, with some lovely solos, and Chaslin kept the overall sound beneath the singers, except where such a thing was impossible, due to the lack of projection from some in the cast.
The best singing came from lower down the cast list, beginning with the magnificent Siébel of mezzo-soprano Jennifer Holloway, with velour-smooth legato and shining high notes in the character's two poignant arias in Acts III ("Faites-lui mes aveux") and IV. She was also just as convincingly male as she was as Le Prince Charmant in the 2006 Cendrillon, and her character seemed to be as much in love with Valentin, Marguerite's brother (a mostly ineffectual Matthew Worth), as he was with Marguerite. Potent mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton had a witty turn in the minor role of Marthe, and she could have stolen the show with a larger role. The chorus was hale and hearty, especially the men in the famous soldiers chorus, and the ghostly ppp singing at the death of Valentin was heartbreaking.
Walpurgisnacht, Faust, Santa Fe Opera, 2011 (photo by Ken Howard)
Sarah Bryan Miller, A needlessly updated 'Faust' with first-rate music (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 10)
Scott Cantrell, A perplexing ‘Faust’ in Santa Fe (Dallas Morning News, August 2)
Lawrence A. Johnson, Stylish production lifts a variable cast in Santa Fe Opera’s “Faust” (The Classical Review, August 2)
John Stege, Devil in the Details (Santa Fe Reporter, July 6)