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Faust in the grinder

Gilliam's Faust was a visual treat. There was the initial Caspar Friedrich David of a set with misty mountains and a stone promentory (which Hitler would later stand on and peer from eagle-like), Faust's crazy cell with the warped perspective, the video projected terrors of war and the funny little generals fighting during The Hungarian March, the Weimar bierkeller (complete with Anita Berber, left), Riefenstahl's Olympiad, the cool light and shadows of the 30's Berlin for Marguerite's seduction and Krystalnacht, Faust's mad motorcyle ride into the comic horrors of hell against the stark dread reality of the death camps, all overlaid with a history of German art and design dominated by the swastika on which Faust is ultimately inversely crucified (a Vitruvian man was projected between each scene, partly rotated at each stage to indicate the decline).

I've only seen two operas and this was certainly different from the rich renaissance design and memorable songs of Rigoletto last year and to a certain extent the music seemed to take backstage. The singers were good (so simonjrogers says) although Peter Hoare as a Struwwelpeter Faust did miss one incredibly high note and Christopher Purves as Mephistopheles never left you in doubt as to who was in really charge. Christine Rice as Maguerite delivered her second half solos with grace. However I don't recall any of the music, except for the start of the motorcycle ride which was like the Dick Barton theme tune. With Rigoletto I could have whistled a couple of numbers the next day and still retain La Donna e mobile.

The equating of Faust's journey and damnation to that of German History leading to the death camps was certainly a bold choice however these themes are so strong that in the end they rather overpowered everything. However, as a spectacle, I'm glad I saw it. We had great seats at the front of the upper circle and I'll certainly remember the imagery for a long time.

Here are two other reviews.

You can see a video montage here and the BBC will be showing it in the Autumn. You'd need a big screen to do it justice.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
ninthcouncil
Jun. 9th, 2011 12:00 pm (UTC)
Opera music is not my bag but I look forward to seeing this on TV later.

On a tangent, the Friedrich promontory is on the Baltic island of Ruegen, which is fascinating for a number of reasons - last hold out of horse-worshipping pagans before crusading Danish bishops did for them, and, according to mad parahistorical theories, site of a German atom bomb test...
gbsteve
Jun. 9th, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
I'm not so keen on the music either, even less so on the incidental singing but some of the songs are OK. It's the whole spectacle that does it for me, although some might claim out the full frontal nudity in my first opera may have helped.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )