Opera Australia: Boito’s Mefistofele – Traditional Melbourne

How fortunate are we – two greats of the operatic stage in a single week, courtesy of Opera Australia! Simply as we had been affected by Kaufmann withdrawal, legendary bass Ferruccio Furlanetto took us on a demonic journey within the title position of Arrigo Boito’s Mefistofele.

Boito might be most famous for being the librettist for Verdi’s ultimate masterpieces: Otello and Falstaff. Those that attended a efficiency of After Aida, introduced just a few days in the past at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre had been capable of acquire a fuller appreciation of his work – and his insecurities. Initially staged in 1868 to loud disapproval, the five-hour Mefistofele model was withdrawn, severely edited when it comes to size and accessibility, and given a second premiere in 1875/76, when it was way more favourably acquired. It has remained in mainstream operatic repertoire ever since, an essential car for the world’s nice basses.

It’s also an excellent showcase for an opera firm’s refrain. Among the many most vital of Boito’s adjustments was the addition of stirring choral sections and creation of an prolonged Prologue through which a mystical choir of angels and cherubim sings God’s praises and backs Faust in a wager with Mefistofele and his lures. It’s the traditional battle between good and evil, love and hatred. Dramatic shifts in dynamics, assertive brass alternating with delicate winds and harps, had been a part of a posh interweaving of instrumental and vocal layers. Brass had been featured within the pit, off-stage and in an on-stage consort of two horns, three trumpets and three trombones. The augmented OA refrain excelled of their varied character teams, together with Penitents, with the twenty members of the OA Kids’s Refrain making astonishingly efficient buzzing cherubim – a testomony to nice, disciplined coaching.

The opposite spotlight of the Prologue was, in fact, Furlanetto. Though this was a live performance efficiency, his depiction of a jaded, cynical satan contemptuous of each God and man captured the essence of character with panache. There was a relaxed, amused nonchalance coupled with an undertone of sneering menace as this Fallen Angel defied the forces for good and, later, in his seduction of Faust. Spectacular in its energy and richness at key moments, Furlanetto additionally had a lightness of vocal contact mirrored within the playful orchestration of a lot of his music.

Melbourne audiences have loved Diego Torre’s performances for a few years now, discovering his ringing tenor voice all the time pleasing, well-focused and dependable. He was unflagging within the difficult position of Faust, shining brightly in arias, duets and bigger ensembles. Boito might need modified the emphasis of the title from his inspiration – Goethe’s Faust – to Mefistofele, however the centrality of the position of Faust continues within the amount and high quality of the music he’s allotted.

As Margherita, Leah Crocetto regarded resplendent in glittering pale teal and sounded a lot the identical. She did venture a tone of youthful innocence at first of the primary encounter with Faust, however her higher notes had been removed from girlish of their expansive energy. Margherita’s Act 2 aria might be essentially the most acquainted quantity within the opera and was sung with ardour and the type of hovering dynamic that may solely be totally appreciated within the theatre. For all of the marvel of sure fabulous excessive notes, generally smoother and extra centered quieter moments had been simply as spectacular.

Natalie Aroyan offered loads of vocal and bodily attract in her portrayal of Faust’s different love curiosity, Elena. Aroyan’s dramatic talents are excellent, and her voice is constantly full, easy and beneficiant. She made a very credible Helen of Troy, all the time “within the second” and alive to the narrative.

Within the smaller roles, Sian Sharp was a delightful Marta/Pantalis, her mezzo-soprano voice heat and engaging, and Iain Henderson was a creditable, no-frills Wagner/Nereo.

Boito’s Mefistofele may not have the succession of in style tunes of Gounod’s Faust or the musical creativeness of Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust, however there was an important deal to admire on this efficiency. Conductor Andrea Battistoni elicited some wonderful enjoying from Orchestra Victoria and harnessed the choral forces to excellent impact. Evocative lighting – starting from celestial overhead spots to demonic crimson washes and glowing golden spots for the ship-launching Elena – elevated the theatrical influence.

Any fan of operas in live performance, permitting the music and singing to take centre stage, ought to embrace the chance to take pleasure in this seldom-performed main work of the eighteenth century with such an excellent forged.

Photograph courtesy of Opera Australia.


Heather Leviston reviewed Boito’s “Mefistofele”, introduced by Opera Australia at Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre on Might 25, 2022.