Opear Review: Boito: <I>Mefistofele</I>

The Israeli Opera's production, inclined toward the spectacular, with a noticeable intention to stun the petit bourgeois.

Mefistofele 88 248 (photo credit: Yosi Zwecker)
Mefistofele 88 248
(photo credit: Yosi Zwecker)
Israeli Opera Boito: Mefistofele The Opera House January 28 If Arrigo Boito, Verdi's librettist, composed his opera Mefistofele under the motto "Anything you can do I can do better" with regard to his maestro, he lost his bet. Its music is mediocre, its plot is a commonplace parody of Goethe's masterpiece Faust, and its characters are stereotypes. The Israeli Opera's production, in collaboration with the Opera de Wallonie, Liege, directed by Jean-Louis Grinda, inclined toward the spectacular, with a noticeable intention to stun the petit bourgeois. Framed by an angelic looking, though not so angelic-sounding, choir in the prologue and epilogue, it proceeded from one stage effect to the next: a colorful, supposedly German street-scene carnival, a technicolored witches' sabbath with witches more well behaved than one commonly expects, and a strategically distributed chorus line in the Greek scene. The singers seemed to have been a minor consideration of this production. They all functioned in the shadow of Paata Burchuladze, whose dark, powerful bass as Mefistofele impersonated the epitome of Evil. Tenor Hugh Smith, in the role of Faust, was an intense, impassioned lover of whomever he happened to be in love with. Why he should have fallen in love with Michele Crider's soprano, thin in her calm moments and shrieky in her excited ones, remained one of this story's mysteries. Margherita's fragile, innocent, delicate character seems to have been beyond this singer's sensibilities. Mirela Gradinaru's soprano, as Elena, sounded too unsteady for comfort. The Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion displayed a full, well consolidated sound. The abundant solo passages were effectively highlighted. If not taken too seriously, it was a mildly amusing performance. Whether Goethe would have been amused or not remains an open question.