Magazine article Opera Canada

Saint Paul

Magazine article Opera Canada

Saint Paul

Article excerpt

Minnesota Opera's new production of Faust, unveiled Jan. 24, is a deromanticized, frankly sexual take on the familiar story that gives us the jagged outlines of World War I-era Dadaist collage, an especially sinister Mephistopheles and scenes peopled with extra dancers. Doug Varone, the New York choreographer who staged the production, uses the nine dancers from his regular troupe throughout. One of them, the striking Natalie Desch, is an Angel in White--Marguerite's soul, perhaps--who writhes alone onstage during the overture, as if trying to rid herself of lustful thoughts. In a moment of pure kitsch, she flies in at the end as the Avenging Angel, sword in hand. Four male dancers accompany Faust's every move onstage. More than assistants, they're really emanations of the Devil's psyche. They do what he's thinking, and, as such, they're up to no good. No peasant maiden is safe.

Some may have found the dancers distracting, but they were continually interesting--and wonderful dancers in any case. They also contributed to Varones apparent intent to take evil more seriously than usual in an opera more often thought of these days as a silly story with good tunes.

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Happily, Kyle Ketelsen's Mephistopheles was a sinister force of nature, humorless, confident of his powers and unstoppable. Ketelsen dominated every scene he was in, and his singing--robust, incisive and rich in tone--was equally impressive. Though this was strongly cast over all, no one could quite match his charisma. …

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