Opera Scotland

Faust 2015Fife Opera

Read more about the opera Faust

Gounod's Faust is rarely performed in Scotland these days, and its last full-scale professional staging here was several decades ago. Even the amateur groups don't tackle it as often as they used to. So the announcement of this production was most welcome.

Fife Opera have an excellent record with French works - not just the obviously popular Carmen and Tales of Hoffmann, but also Lakmé. Their staging of Gounod's classic, full of rousing melodies, with big choruses and high drama, was therefore eagerly anticipated. In the event, this was a thoroughly enjoyable presentation, much appreciated by its audience and largely meeting expectations.

One of the strengths of Fife Opera is that the chorus was large, indeed two divisions of choristers appeared on alternate nights, along with an excellent group of children. Some impressive cartwheels were performed. They provided rousing climaxes to their important scenes, especially the fourth act return of the soldiers, followed by the killing of Valentin and his cursing of his sister.

Conductor Alistair Digges had an excellent band to play the reduced score, and he paced it beautifully, with plenty of lyrical highlights interspersed among the punchy dramatic elements.

All the solo roles were double cast, showing the company to be in fine fettle after last year's excellent Carmen. At the last performance on Saturday afternoon, the best of the soloists was Ian McBain in the title role. He was very effective in his famous aria in the Garden Scene, 'Salut, demeure' (as the original French has it), was performed with a beautifully restrained lyricism, and he had plenty in reserve for the climactic phrases. The French style seems to suit McBain, and it would be nice to see him as Romeo or Nadir. Frances Taylor was also thoroughly effective as Marguerite, memorably so in the later, dramatic acts.  She gave a fine performance, even if the wonderful Jewel Song lacked the trills necessary to suggest the sparkling of the jewels.

Jonathan Sedgwick was a dapper devil, generally in white-tie and tails with opera cloak. Tall, he dominated the stage with ease, and sang with expressive force. His two performances were straddled by three performances in the the Chorus of Carmen for Scottish Opera. The other roles were also well taken, with lovely phrasing of Siébel's arias and Marthe displaying an appropriate pawky humour.

The production had updated the action to the time of the First World War. Valentin, Wagner and several of the chorus were in khaki battle dress. Faust started in a dressing gown and was restored to youth in a smart double-breasted suit. In the second half, as guilt takes its toll, he wore a suitably decadent burgundy coloured waistcoat.

Sets too were impressive, though there was little suggestion of a garden in the second act. A tattered poster of Kitchener and a Union Jack were sufficient to suggest the end of the war as the soldiers return.

With the Saturday performance being a 2.15 matinee, there was plenty of incentive for non-Fifers to come and see the work of the largest of the amateur groups still active in this country. There certainly was a good-sized and appreciative house.

Performance Cast

Faust a learned doctor

Barry McAleer (Nov 4, 6)

Ian McBain (Nov 5, 7)

Méphistophélès the devil

Russell Malcolm (Nov 4, 6)

Jonathan Sedgwick (Nov 5, 7)

Valentin Marguerite's brother

Steven Mackie (Nov 4, 6)

George Nairne (Nov 5, 7)

Wagner a student of Dr Faust

Peter Saunders (Nov 4, 6)

Robin MacKenzie (Nov 5, 7)

Marguerite

Emma Mockett (Nov 4, 6)

Frances Taylor (Nov 5, 7)

Siébel a student of Dr Faust, in love with Marguerite

Natalie O'Reilly (Nov 4, 6)

Margaret Sharp (Nov 5, 7)

Marthe a neighbour

Susan Crosby (Nov 4, 6)

Elaine Young (Nov 5, 7)

Performance DatesFaust 2015

Map List

Adam Smith Theatre | Kirkcaldy

4 Nov, 19.15 5 Nov, 19.15 6 Nov, 19.15 7 Nov, 14.15

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