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Des McAnuff’s Faust [ENO 2010]

Toby Spence, Melody Moore, Iain Paterson, Benedict Nelson, Anna Grevelius & Pamela Helen Stephen

Conductor Edward Gardner; Director Des McAnuff; Set Designer Robert Brill

Enjoy some of the several rave reviews for this latest ENO co-production extravaganza, an undoubted commercial success, but don't ignore the wisdom from Financial Times - - The Met wins hands down from this arrangement. It gets to test its show before moving in with a superior cast. ENO is left with another hard sell. Its cast has the added disadvantage of trying to sing French music in English translation, a near-impossible task. - -

We didn't warm to this latest updating of a venerable operatic war-horse, so can't offer constructive help to prospective punters who will, we guess, flock to this show here - and in New York in French, before it appears on Sky TV and DVD ?

The scansion of the English words was one of the worst things about this opera-in-English super-titled version; they could be heard, only too well.

We enjoyed Toby Spence's singing greatly, and join the chorus of praise for his enhanced stature as a singer to fill the biggest opera houses. Not much else; Melody Moore was unalluring and vocally inadequate; Iain Patterson can't sing low...

The orchestra under ENO's reliable principal conductor was fine, and we were once again charmed by the succession of good tunes in the 3rd Act, which was directed more simply.

Most of the reviews and production images are collected by The Opera Critic (below, free trial membership) but one that isn't and struck a chord of fellow feeling with us is a blogger's description incuding how '- - a huge video image of Toby Spence’s disembodied head reminded me of Old Star Trek, when they often had big alien heads appear on the screen in similar manner, to bellow threateningly at the brave crew. Later on, Melody Moore’s huge disembodied head was projected in the same manner, but this was even better, because there was the sci-fi set to go with it. Yes, no stuffy old alchemist’s den for Dr Faust, for this was more Dr Atomic in a chrome and white 20th century lab with beakers of chemicals and model bombs and people in white coats and stuff - -

For a corrective, try Murnau's version...

Peter Grahame Woolf