Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Gounod gives the devil his due in ‘Faust’
BY MARCUS KALIPOLITES
For the Times Herald-Record
MIDDLETOWN — Not only does the devil lie in the details for the Hudson Opera Theatre’s production of “Faust,” but also in every aspect. C. David Morrow, who plays the devil, could not have handled all the details of his performance any better.
In Sunday’s presentation of Gounod’s classic opera at the United Presbyterian Church, this veteran performer of commanding presence headed a cast of 29 singers and 18 instrumentalists in a memorable performance directed by Ron De Fesi.
Early in the story, as Faust mourns a mundane existence, Morrow’s character of Mephistopheles, by turning the contemplated poison into an elixir of youth, transforms the aged philosopher into a handsome young man. In the duet, “Me voici,” a bargain is struck that Mephistopheles will service him on Earth, while Faust will later dwell in his service in hell.
In the second act, as villagers celebrate the pleasures of wine, the devil, with his robust and thoroughly expressive bass voice, promotes an even more dazzling celebration of hilarity and dancing.
Spectacle aside, the production revels in impressive singing by soloists as well as the chorus. Thus, expressive but in a more genial way than Morrow, is tenor Justin Scott Randolph, who reveals a warm and sensitive voice in his aria commending the home of Marguerite.
More radiant yet, his voice glows with passion in the duet he shares with the woman of his desires. For her part, Charlotte Detrick’s lyric voice effectively captures the rapture of a woman idolizing herself in the mirror.
Bravura singing marks the performance of Gustavo Morales, whose noble and heroic baritone voice captures the pride of a soldier preparing for battle. More somber and dark in color, however, is the aria in which his character, Valentin, faults his sister Marguerite for causing his death.
On a more idyllic level is the bubbly singing of Ema Mitrovic in the role of the lovesick Siebel, who not only adores Marguerite but also promises to protect her while Valentin is away. Effusive in her singing is Janean Sherwin as the neighbor who exudes over the jewels introduced by Mephistopheles to trick Marguerite. And last among the soloists is baritone [tenor] Michael Kolb as Wagner the soldier, who heartily encourages villagers to drink away their sorrows.
For their part, the villagers not only sing with grand and glorious voices in the happy episodes like the summer breeze waltz, but also capture the somber church mood with angelic a cappella singing. On a more spirited level, soldiers returning from battle bristle with full-throated voice and prideful marching in the exuberant “Soldier’s Chorus.”
No small part of the excellence of this production, also, is the 18-piece orchestra, whose symphonic playing in the overture promised effective and well-balanced sound throughout. Acoustics aside, the production features distinctive and colorful costumes of 16th-century Germany and for edification, supertitles in English.
And lastly, it’s the mastery of artistic director De Fesi, who makes the whole thing work. It’s a production you don’t want to miss.