[ Bru Zane / 3 CD/Book ]
Release Date: Friday 23 August 2019
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Gounod contemplated a Faust opera as early as his residence in Rome in the 1840s. But almost twenty years were to elapse before one of the most famous works of French Romanticism was premiered at the Théâtre-Lyrique (1859). Its debut at the Opéra in 1869 propelled the work into theatres all over the world, but numerous modifications were the price of achieving that fame.
Between the Faust of 1859 and its counterpart of 1869, some of the spirit has evaporated: the spontaneity of the spoken dialogue and melodrama, the pawky humour of Dame Marthe, the cynicism of Méphistophélès. We have forgotten the charm of the first tenors who sang 'Salut, demeure chaste et pure' with the timbre typical of the voix mixte of opéra-comique. Moreover, a large number of pieces were consigned to oblivion by these modifications. To discover this first Faust is to gain a deeper insight into the French aesthetic of demi-caractère, so specific to Paris in the 1850s.
BBC Music Magazine Awards 2020 Finalist - Opera
"It emerges spring-cleaned of 150 years of Victorian accretions and cobwebs in Rousset's hands...There's wonderful singing from Benjamin Bernheim as Faust, an immaculate stylist who crowns the famous air Salut, demeure with a perfectly placed high C in voix mixte. Véronique Gens's lyric Marguerite and Andrew Foster-Williams's wittily sardonic Méphistophélès are excellent. A revelation." Sunday Times
"It's little short of a revelation, in which some century and a half of performance tradition is scraped away to reveal a witty, fleet-footed work that comes close to the composer's (and librettists') original conception...It also happens to be a terrific recording on its own terms...Rousset underpins it all with conducting that is fleet and dramatically engaged." Gramophone
"Christophe Rousset uses period instruments and creates an astonishingly diﬀerent sound world: harder, less swooning, sharper. Benjamin Bernheim is a relatively light-voiced Faust, ardent and fresh. Véronique Gens' soprano has the right vocal weight and plush tone for Marguerite but she is occasionally pushed at the very top. Andrew Foster- Williams is debonair and louche, and his lithe bass-baritone ﬁts Méphistophélès' tessitura perfectly." Opera Now