Georgian bass Paata Burchuladze returns to the Israel Opera stage on January 28 in the title role of Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele, aka Satan, the wily devil who promises Faust (tenor Antonello Palombi) earthly bliss in return for his soul.
Boito (1842-1918) also wrote the libretto for his opera based on Goethe's epic play Dr. Faustus, as did Charles Gounod. But where Gounod concentrates on the story of Faust and the luckless Marguerite (returning soprano Michele Crider), Boito's Mefistofele centers on the struggle between God (the choir - one of its many parts) and the devil.
The director is Jean Louis Grinda, who did Verdi's Don Carlo at the Israel Opera a couple of seasons back, and the conductor is Massimiliano Stefanelli, last here in 2007 for Il Trovatore. Buki Schiff, who began what is now an international career in the new Israel Opera days at the Noga Theater, designed the more than 300 different costumes.
The La Scala audience roundly booed Mefistofele when it premiered there in 1868. After radical revision, the opera was a hit when it opened in Bologna in 1875, and has remained in the repertoire ever since.
This is Mefistofele's Israel debut and the opera runs through February 10.