Faust had not been presented in Quebec for 25 years. The work of Charles Gounod, the key element of the 11th edition of the Opera Festival, is a success all along the line. The singers are excellent and the staging is of high quality and caliber.
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Playing again on Tuesday evening and Thursday at the Grand Théâtre de Québec, Faust is a must. A production that will please both connoisseurs and those who would like to learn about this art form.
There is acting, a beautiful dramaturgy that unfolds throughout the five acts, a spectacular scenography and singers with very good voices.
From the first seconds of the musical opening, played by the musicians of the Orchester symphonique de Québec, under the direction of French conductor Victorien Vanoosten, we feel that it will be memorable.
The presence of a luminous cross, a podium-staircase, chandeliers and smoke, at the raising of the curtain, sets the tone.
Faust is the story of an unhappy man who is about to end his life when Satan, in the guise of Mephistopheles, promises to give him back his youth in exchange for his soul. He makes appear, to convince him, the young and pretty Marguerite.
The primary strength of this production is the quality of the cast with Quebec and French singers. All the voices are of good quality.
Tenor Thomas Bettinger (Faust), bass Patrick Bolleire (Méphistophélès), baritone Jérôme Boutillier (Valentin) and mezzo-sopranos Anne-Catherine Gillet (Marguerite) and Sarah Bissonnette (Siébel) are excellent.
We find superb game sequences, directed by Jean-Romain Vesperini, accompanied by successful and almost three-dimensional video projections like that of the forest during the first act.
Thomas Bettinger inhabits the character of Faust with ease. He offers, with Patrick Bolleire, a skilfully choreographed duet, when Faust feels invigorated by the promise of Mephistopheles.
Bolleire's Satan is vocally imposing and solid in his acting. He is very expressive physically and with his arm movements.
In the role of Marguerite, Anne-Catherine Gillet distinguishes herself with He was a king of Thule and then offers a remarkable interpretation of the Air of jewels, completely forgetting the caricature of Castafiore in Tintin. His diction, like that of all the singers in the cast, is precise and perfect.
In Act IV, after the intermission, the organ notes resonate in the Grand Théâtre, when Marguerite, tormented, goes to church and finds herself with Méphistophélès. We do not often hear the organ at the opera and this element brings grandeur to this opera created in 1859.
The baritone William Desbiens, in the role of the festive soldier Wagner, stands out vocally and with great ease on the boards. The young singer from Quebec is gaining strength and confidence.
Efficient, as is always the case, the thirty singers of the Chœur de l’Opéra de Québec once again delivered the goods, throughout the production, in colorful and well choreographed group scenes. One of these moments occurs when the soldiers, who return from the war, advance to the end of the stage to sing Gloire immortale de nos aïeux. The energy is powerful.
This house production is a success and one of the finest presented in recent seasons in Quebec.