The IU Opera Theatre's production of Gounod's Faust was a delightful success on all fronts. Conductor Imre Palló lead an accomplished performance that simply brimmed with confident accomplishment.
Guest director Dale Girard was ever alert to keeping his individual actors moving naturally, but with good dramatic effect. The crowd scenes and even the march of the soldiers for the famous "Soldier's Chorus" were thoughtfully worked out for both consistency and variety. A couple of stop motion scenes spiced things up and the choreography of the duel was thrilling.
Johann Weigel as Faust, the learned doctor, who sells his soul for a chance to relive his youth had a wonderfully successful evening. He's a wide ranging tenor who can belt out the high notes, but what impressed me most was a few times when he simply expanded his middle tone for a wonderful honeyed effect. Harold Wilson, all six plus feet of him, was every inch the devil. He sang very well and whenever he spread his arms, his hands lighted with a red glow. It was dramatically right there.
Gounod's opera is almost more about Marguérite, the girl that Faust falls for, than it is about the learned doctor himself. With the devil's help, Faust seduces and then abandons her. She has a child, kills it and goes crazy. Stephanie Johnson was both moving and pathetic as the deranged Marguérite.
The trouser role of Siebel, a young boy, who is also smitten with Marguérite is always an audience favorite. Saturday night's Siebel, Kimberly Gratland James, lived up to the expectation. James sang very well and had just the young shy, but exuberant, boyish act down.
In some productions of Faust, it's suggested that Marguérite in her final moments of contrition is able to save the doctor, but not so at the IU Opera. Faust definitely exited down through the stage before the angels very dramatically saved the sorrowful Marguérite.
The IU Musical Arts Center seems somehow to discourage standing ovations and except for a few isolated individuals there wasn't one Saturday, but there were plenty of bravos and bravas mixed with the warm applause.