Friday, 31 July 2015

The GNO has finally released its first DVD: Faust by Charles Gounod

The Greek National Opera has finally released its first DVD, featuring Charles Gounod’s opera, Faust that was staged in January 2012 at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) and made a great artistic and box office success. It was conducted by Myron Michailidis and was directed by Renato Zanella, GNO’s artistic and ballet directors respectively.

The production that was recorded and is now released in DVD was made possible by the participation of all artistic entities of the Greek National Opera: Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet, as well as a superb cast of distinguished Greek and non-Greek soloists.

Faust DVD Cast and Creative Team:
Conductor: Myron Michailidis
Director - Choreographer: Renato Zanella
Sets: Alessandro Camera / Costumes: Carla Ricotti
Lightings: Vinicio Cheli / Chorus master: Nikos Vasiliou

Faust Eric Cutler
Marguerite Alexia Voulgaridou
Méphistophélès Paata Burchuladze
Valentin Dimitri Platanias
Wagner Dimitris Kassioumis
Siébel Irini Karaianni
Marthe Ines Zikou
With the participation of the Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet of the Greek National Opera.

The performance was recorded on 20 January 2012 under the direction of Michalis Dais. The released DVD is a production of the Greek National Opera, contains two discs, is accompanied by a bilingual booklet (Greek, English) and features subtitles in five languages: French, English, German, Italian and Greek. Its extras include impressive photos of the production.
The DVD is available at the Olympia Theatre Shop (59, Akadimias street, Athens). Soon, it will also be available at selected music stores in Greece and abroad.

[A few words about the production]
The famous story of Faust inspired by Goethe and the great composition by Charles Gounod bewitched the audience of Athens in its eight performances held in January 2012 by the Greek National Opera at the Athens Concert Hall.

Renato Zanella, who directed and choreographed the production, approached the saga of Faust by focusing more to the heroes’ human dimension rather than to the story’s supernatural and religious element. The inspired use of the ballet, that was not reserved solely to the Walpurgis Night and was employed in many other points of the performance, as well as the appropriate directions towards the singers and chorus contributed to the great success of the endeavour.

The pious atmosphere permeating the performance was made possible through the plain but particularly inspired sets of Alessandro Camera, coupled with the superb costumes of Carla Ricotti and the atmospheric lights of Vinicio Cheli.

The GNO Orchestra under the baton of Myron Michailidis, reached high standards of performance and was impressively consistent with the spirit of Gounod’s music, whereas the vocal and stage presence of the Chorus excelled under the mastership of Nikos Vasiliou.

Thanks to his vocal abilities and sturdy stage presence, the acclaimed American tenor Eric Cutler was enthralling as Faust. The voice and stage presence of the Greek soprano Alexia Voulgaridou, currently making her mark in major opera houses worldwide, offered the audience an ideal Marguerite. In the role of Méphistophélès, the famous bass Paata Burchuladze from Georgia proffered a grand rendition of the role, testifying, thus, his superior class. The top Greek baritone of our days, Dimitri Platanias, whose career extends to major opera theatres across Europe, enthused and touched the audience as Valentin. The distinguished Greek soloists, Irini Karaianni, Dimitris Kassioumis and Ines Zikou rendered their roles with dynamism and passion. The participation of the GNO Ballet under Renato Zanella’s choreographic direction, was, indeed, one the most interesting features of the production, whereas Principal Dancers Igor Siadzko, Alina Stergianou, Stratos Papanoussis and Maria Kousouni stole the spotlight.

[The opera]
Faust is a five-act opera, the libretto of which is based on the text by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré who drew upon the theatre play Faust et Marguerite, written by Carré (1850), and upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, Part 1 (1808), translated into French by Gérard de Nerval (1828). It is a typical example of the French grand opéra genre and the first one whose worldwide success was such that it remained the most popular opera until almost World War II. It debuted as an opéra comique, featuring spoken dialogues, but over a ten-year period it transformed itself, accommodating to the taste of its international audience. The term opéra comique does not suggest any comedy elements; rather, it relates to elements of structure and aesthetics, one of which being spoken dialogues. From Goethe’s Faust Gounod retains only the narrative, circumventing the philosophical background: the elderly scientist Faust sells his soul to Méphistophélès in exchange for youth and erotic love. The focal point of the opera is not Faust but rather Marguerite who, thanks to love, is transformed and in the end her choices cost her dearly.

[The composer]
Charles Gounod was born in Paris, in 1818 and took his first piano lessons with his mother. He studied at the Conservatoire de Paris and in 1839 he won the famous Prix de Rome for his cantata Fernand. During his stay in Italy he studied the music of Palestrina and compositions of church music. Later, thanks to Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn, he became acquainted with the music of J. S. Bach. In 1851 he composed his first opera, Sapho. In 1859, Faust earned him international fame. Later on followed the French-themed work Mireille (1864) – that recently has come, yet again, to the forefront – and the opera Roméo et Juliette (1867), based on Shakespeare’s eponymous play. Apart from opera works, Gounod also composed symphonies, whereas towards the end of his life he was particularly involved with sacred music, oratorios, music for Mass and motets. He died of stroke in 1893