Opera San Jose’s production of Faust opened recently at the California Theatre on First Street in San Jose and will run through Sunday, May 6, 2012. For almost a quarter century Faust was the world’s most widely performed opera, You may be surprised as you recognize some of the melodies. The elements of the story are familiar (in a classic “deal with the devil”, Faust and Mephistopheles negotiate – the elderly scholar, Faust, agrees to surrender his soul in a future Hell in exchange for instant youthfulness and whatever it takes to fill his empty life with a woman and all that he had missed over the decades that he pursued science, academics and necromancy.
The lonely and unfulfilled old man, Faust, is transformed on stage into a dashing young blade and he and Mephistopheles head out to find a maiden for Faust. He is attracted to the lovely and innocent Marguerite, whom they discover in a local tavern. Marguerite, ever innocent, declines Faust’s offer to escort her.
By Act III, however, it is apparent that Marguerite and Faust are strongly attracted to each other. So much so that Marguerite is obviously pregnant, not acceptable in those days.
Time passes; Faust, meanwhile, has abandoned her. Marguerite appeals to the church, but there is no comfort for her there, only judgment. More sorrow – Faust has inadvertently killed her brother. Marguerite, in despair and now in prison, has been condemned to hang for killing her illegitimate infant.
Faust, repentant, returns to find her and help her to escape. But Marguerite, unhinged by all that has happened, can only reminisce about their love. Mephistopheles urges them to run, the hangman is on his way. Instead, Marguerite appeals to the angels in heaven to save her.
The voice of Marguerite (Jasmina Halimic),which has been lyrical up until now, becomes soaring and ecstatic as she cries out to the angels to save her soul.
She is saved. The music and the voices are magnificent. And what of Faust, who had traded his soul to the devil? Aha! Come see.
Larry Hancock , Opera San Jose’s General Manager, meets with the audience for 45 minutes at the rear of the Orchestra Section an hour and a half before the curtain goes up. (at 1:30 for matinees, 6:30 for evening performances). His talks are full of gems, humor, and fascinating information about the opera and the production. Hancock’s talk, the English Supertitles (translations which appear above the stage are vital, for me at least, to know what’s happening and they increase the enjoyment and understanding of the opera immensely. Note: Opera San Jose also offers free previews with singers and Larry Hancock at the Martin Luther King Library.
If you would like more information, check the Opera San Jose website: www.operasj.org