2015 was SCO’s 10th Anniversary and to celebrate it we staged, the nowadays rarely performed opera, Faust by Charles-François Gounod. It was once one of the most famous and most performed of all operas, and contains many much-loved musical highlights including the memorable Soldiers’ Chorus, Méphistophélès’s rowdy ‘Song of the Golden Calf’, and Marguerite’s Jewel Song with its dazzling coloratura. Our acclaimed production of Faust toured to 18 venues across the UK, conducted by John Beswick, set design by Brendan Wheatley and costume design by Gabriella Ingram.
Swansea City Opera, to celebrate its tenth year this year, has wheeled out the little performed opera; Charles Gounod’s, Faust. A cautionary allegory with debauchery, hedonism, mild Homo-eroticism, greed and death as its central themes should be explosive……Well it was! This is a powerful, beautifully framed, presented and performed show with such excellence the thunderous applause at the end was not only well earned but well-meant too.
No one could have left this show disappointed.
With a tale dating back to the mid sixteenth century, first found in a German book in 1587, the legend of Faust had had one or two face lifts before German Poet Goethe got hold of it in the mid Eighteenth century and wrote his poem, Faust. Noted as a benchmark in European literature Charles Gounod’s Opera of the same name premiered in Paris around a hundred years later, in 1859.
With a beautiful Orchestra of twelve players the score was so superbly presented. One was aware that this orchestra was having to hold back its power to allow for the human voices to be heard above; but really they needn’t to have worried as the voices were strong and powerful and the music blended with the harmonies really as it held its audience spellbound.
Mark Saberton’s Mephistopheles or the Devil as we know him, was so mightily sinister the audience were dragged in by the sheer power and magic of his performance. We were also wooed by the beauty of Marguerite so strong, so powerful, so sumptuous.
Brendan Wheatley’s direction shows a superb comprehension of the text,it’s depths and its themes. He has fun with these characters and has brought the temptation, the evil and greed so much to the fore that one could have as easily been watching a brand new story for this capitalistic, sometimes over greedy world, as opposed to a story almost five hundred years old. Maybe its eternal?
The design was daring and inspiring. Using just a back drop of corrugated iron it gave the area a down at heel, Victorian slum feel. But then the audience were treated to the lavish costume that gave it the Gothic Mary Shelley kind of ambience.
Tonight Salopians were treated to a fresh, an entertaining and thrilling evening of theatre. If this is Swansea’s tenth anniversary then I‘ m convinced people will wait expectantly for productions in the many decades to follow.
Perhaps for some, Opera is a difficult medium to identify with. Maybe it can be ,but having companies with the artistic integrity and cultural understanding that Swansea City Opera demonstrated, we should be seeing and hearing Opera for years to come and the World will be a better place for it.
What’s your price? What would tempt you? Answers on a postcard to Mephistoheles care of Swansea City Opera. I’m sure it will find its way…just be careful what you wish for!
This is a four star review
Photography by Guy Harrop – http://www.guyharrop.com/