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Russian mystery of Doctor Faust

Yury Alyabov

27 December 2009

Famous opera by Charles Gounod performed in Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre. Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre established a reputation not only as the “factory of the new opera masters” and the serious artistic association, but also as a creative work-shop, where nobody is afraid of the artistic experiment and where the constant self-perfection is the ordinary life style. It applies not only to the technical, vocal and artistic skills, but also to the repertoire and the music material, which allows to the students to reveal every skill and talent of the vocalist. It should be noted, that considering strong commitment of Galina Pavlovna to the classical Russian traditions, these experiments under her genuine guide do not grow into a modernistic shocking performances that often look like farce. It doesn’t necessary mean that Vishnevskaya Opera center is closed for the music that sounds bold and modern nowadays, for example “The Marriage” by M. P. Mussorgski, but in general, the theater prefers plays that are called classical for centuries. The next such play was opera “Faust” by Charles Gounod. There were not too many operas in the biography of this French composer that were had success. Among them were “Romeo and Juliette” and “Faust”.
The premiere of this opera took place in 1859 in “Lyric Theater”. At first, it was not too popular. Gradually, the audience began to like it, and 10 years later “Faust” was performed in “Grand Opera” in Paris. The dialogues had to be replaced by musical recitatives, and several ballet scenes, including famous ” Walpurgis night” were added. In that way, in 1894 a year after composer’s death, the 100th performance of “Faust” was celebrated. In contrast to the original literature source where religious and philosophical part had the key importance, in the opera the lyrical part of the poem was highlighted. A lot of beautiful melodies and musical characteristics of the characters – Marguerite, young Siebel, Valentin and at last Faust – were opposed to the evil personified by Méphistophélès. This character since the times of Shaliapin is one of the favorites among spectators. Aria « Le veau d’or est toujours debout…» became the worldwide super-hit of all-times. Intensive and bright music and words that are still actual nowadays guarantee the success for any audience.
The Vishnevskaya Opera Center has not became the exception. Ruslan Rozyev as the Prince of Darkness received a great ovation even in dramatic scenes, what is not often at opera performances. In spite of emotion of the singers, of a little constraint and voice stiffness at the tessitura points, the singers generally coped with their extraordinary difficult vocal parts. The audience gave an enthusiastic welcome to Konstantin Brzhinsky (Valentin) and Nadezhda Karyazina (Siebel), and certainly to the main characters Faust and Marguerite (Vassily Gafner and Natalia Kalita). The performance deserves to be respected particularly because of the singing in the original language – French (the performance is most probably meant for the guest tour abroad). The choir and ensemble scenes must be estimated especially. There were no more emotion and nervousness when the single soloists became a “team”, and the vocal sounded more powerful, vigorous and beautiful. As I could notice, this is significant for all the choir scenes at the Galina Vishnevskaya Opera Centre. In “Faust” the choir sounds alternately from the different sides and points: from the orchestra pit, from above, from behind the stage. This effect intensifies the artistic perception. The great ovation was the reward for the singers and for Galina Vishnevskaya herself, who was standing in the VIP- box nodding like a queen. To her appearances she was satisfied with the result – and this is the most high estimation for the students.