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Damnation of Faust/ Glyndebourne

Critics of live performances in the arts rarely give you the audience reaction.

Sportswriters more commonly include the crowd – in football, the reaction to a substitution, to tactics or even an individual performance.

This does not happen with arts reviewers even though I would suggest that performance is more influenced by the mood of the audience than the views of a critic.

Glyndebourne is an elderly audience mostly dressed in long floral robes or, in the case of men, ill-fitting dinner jackets that have seen many years of active service.

There was a commotion when a group of three took up seats initially unoccupied but reclaimed by the late comers. Their original seats had gone.

Osbert Lancaster in his cartoon that hangs on my wall brilliantly captured this audience.

Last night at Glyndebourne I thought the audience was not engaged by the Damnation of Faust by Hector Berlioz.

This might be because the stage was a stark empty space of gloomy black. You only knew where you were by a front door with a sign above it – Military school where Faust taught, tavern, hell.

It might have been a storage warehouse.

Nor were any of the arias nor performances that inspiring and the opera, drawn from a translation of Faust by Gerard Nerval, was removed from the original text of Goethe as in the opera Faust only enters into his pact with the devil when his sweetheart Marguerite has abandoned him and he wants her back, whilst in the play Faust trades life’s pleasures unconditionally.

Berlioz is a brilliant orchestrator and I soon found myself concentrating more on the London Philharmonic conducted by Robin Ticciati.

As a keen lover of cricket I was also anxious to know how the match between New Zealand and South Africa ended.

Fortunately it was played out in the Long Interval and, armed with radio and headset, I was able to follow the dramatic final overs.

Kane Williamson and Grandhomme’s batting performance was more stirring than anything on the Glyndebourne stage.

Jeremy Coney trying to remain detached as analyst whilst having kittens when it looked that New Zealand might fall only added to the excitement.

About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts