Enter hell, where the Devil wears a ball gown and hosts a dance orgy. Faust will take you places you never thought were quite possible on stage. From the intrinsic set design to the realistic costuming, my high expectations were met at each turn.
When the curtain began to rise and the set was revealed, I didn’t feel like the creative dream had quite captured me yet. The opening prologue baffled me a bit. There was an entire piece of music where the Devil was revealed, before the main character Faust was introduced, where there was no words. I was a bit baffled at what was happening but from the moment the Devil was reintroduced the tale sunk it’s claws in and I fell under it’s spell.
I’ve been calling him the Devil, but his name is really Méphistophélès. Teddy Tahu Rhodes whipped up a brilliant rendition. Every scene he was in was lifted by his character’s wicked presence. One particular scene when Marguerite was praying in her church, in the centre of the room was a large statue of three men but all we could see was their backs. In the midst of her prayers the man in the centre, who I was almost certain was stone two seconds beforehand, threw off his shawl and turned to begin to curse her. It was Méphistophélès. What sealed the deal was when he finished his part he turned back, throwing the shawl over his shoulders again and took the same position of the statue once more. I swear it had turned back to stone.
The set for this show was incredible. I felt like I had stumbled into Europe and there were real stone houses placed on stage. The lighting and effects complimented each scene spectacularly. In some it was like the warm sun was shining in, and in others there were stars in the night sky. I have to make a special mention to the costumes as well. From the realistic uniforms to Faust’s cheeky mockery of the Devil’s outfit, it sold the show. Kudos to Charles Edwards, Brigitte Reiffenstuel and Paule Constable for such mesmerising work on this production.
Of course an opera isn’t really an opera without the pit, which was securely positioned below the stage. Conductor Brad Cohen and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra definitely set the mood for the tale, and created an enticing atmosphere. Each of the main character’s themes resonated in their words and the score.
The casting of Siebel confused me though. Fiona Campbell filled the role, and she was great, but I did not realise she was actually playing a male suitor until Siebel’s solo; I had assumed she was some sort of house keeper before hand. Perhaps in the 1800s an undesirable suitor was depicted as feminine in an opera to make it clear he had no chance with the leading lady.
I had not expected to be completely sold by this show. The only issue I found was when more than one person was singing at once there was no translation but it was clear exactly how they were feeling. The entire cast were extraordinary singers but Patrick O’Halloran and Natalie Aroyan stole the show a bit in their duets.
This show demonstrated just how much mischief the Devil can create when you ask him a favour. If you have never seen an opera before, I recommend you watch at least one in your lifetime, but be prepared for everything to be sung with vibrato. I love watching musicals so the step to opera was not very far out of my comfort zone, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Faust is showing at His Majesty’s Theatre on the 31st of October, and the 3rd, 5th and 7th of November. There are limited tickets but don’t despair if you miss out, the West Australian Opera is returning in 2016 with several shows lined up starting with Gianni Schicchi: Opera in the Park in February. For more information head to Ticketek or the West Australian Opera website.