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By Charles Gounod
The Israeli Opera
Goethe would probably not have been happy with the way Gounod turned his profoundly philosophical tragedy, Faust, into an obsessive boy-meets-girl story, performed at the Israeli Opera.
Paul-Emile Fourny’s direction echoed a modernity of some 20 years past by placing Faust on a wheelchair and making Siebel ride a bycicle. Faust and Marguerite’s explicit, unappetizing seduction scene, Valentin’s commonplace, unimaginative dying scene, and the kitschy pink Walpurgis Night all came close to the permissible boundaries of banality.
The performance’s highlight was the singers. As Mephistopheles, Georgian Paata Burchuladze’s dark bass and forceful expression represented the personification of evil. His menacing Golden Calf
aria was one of the performance’s climaxes.
This production’s great surprise was Noemi Nadelmann, whose lovely, soft and delicate soprano enchantingly conjured up a credulous image of the innocent and naive Marguerite. Her Jewels
aria was a pure delight, and the intense expression of her tragedy toward the end was genuinely moving.
In the role of Faust, Scott Piper’s appealing tenor created a credible
lover. Already his first “I love you” was accentuated long and
persuasively enough to make his feelings unmistakably clear.
Stella Grigorian provided another remarkable Georgian presence with her clear, bright mezzo-soprano as Siebel.
Conductor Omer Welber worked wonders with the Israel Symphony Orchestra
Rishon LeZion, contributing the dramatic content and emotional
atmosphere in a perfectly expressive manner.