Gounod’s Faust may offer a conventional, blatantly moralistic take on the good doctor’s pact with the devil, but it’s also a singer’s feast. Most of its arias are tuneful, supple, and in sync with the characters’ personalities, displaying the best of Gounod’s polished French academic style. Though the libretto–loosely adapted from Goethe’s complex philosophical treatment of the legend–has reduced Faust to a sniveling weasel who seduces and abandons the virtuous Marguerite and kills her brother to boot, the Romantic (and Goethean) theme of worldly ennui redeemed by pastoral innocence still resonates, especially in the opera’s famous set pieces, such as act four’s church scene and the magnificent finale in which angels carry Marguerite to heaven. For its brand-new revival, the Lyric Opera has assembled a brilliant, youngish, almost all-American cast–led by tenor Richard Leech as Faust. Marguerite is played by soprano Renee Fleming, whose Lyric debut a couple of seasons ago in Floyd’s Susannah marked the arrival of a major vocal talent who can also act. Of the same caliber is Siberian-born baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who plays Marguerite’s brother. Mephistopheles is played by Samuel Ramey, who returns in his signature role. John Nelson conducts. Saturday, Wednesday, and next Saturday, January 27, 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker; 332-2244. TED SHEN
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/ Christian Steiner.