Wednesday 12 November 2008

Pascal Dusapin: Faustus, the last night

Faustus - the last night. Opera by Pascal Dusapin. Opéra de Lyon 2006. Production: Peter Mussbach. Cast: Georg Nigl (Faustus), Urban Malmberg (Mephistopheles), Robert Wörle (Sly), Jaco Huijpen (Togod), Caroline Stein (The Angel). Conductor: Jonathan Stockhammer. Further information here.

A French composer, an English libretto, a world premiere in Germany (Berlin State Opera) 2006. This recording is of the world premiere production by Peter Mussbach from Lyon.

Composer and librettist Pascal Dusapin´s based Faustus, the last night loosely on Marlowe´s Doktor Faustus (as opposed to Goethe´s, as Dusapin emphasized in an accompanying interview), but with a myriad of other influences, such as Dante, Samuel Beckett etc. One has to be very well acquainted with the world of classic literature and philosophy to capture these references (to be honest, I mostly didn´t, if not for the accompanying booklet).

In brief this is an opera of philosophical ideas. A conversational piece between Faustus and Méphistophéles taking place on Faust´s last night passing from the living to the damned. Several characters are added such as as Sly, from The taming of the Shrew (Dusapin: My favourite Shakespearean character), a terrified Angel and Togod (to God). Faustus is megalomaniac and asks all sorts of questions. Méphistophéles does not want to answer in a discussion centered around the creation of the world and the nature of ideas where Dusapin´s self-confessed sympathy lies with Méphistopheles. There is no linear plot in this 1,5 hour very intellectual piece.

Peter Mussbach´s aesthetic staging is centered around a giant reclining clock on which the characters are continually in motion.

Pascal Dusapin´s music I find rather powerful, dark and relatively rich-textured. In fact, I find this opera one of the musically most interesting newly composed opera within the last decade together with the operas of Kaija Saariaho.

However, what remains is that this is a very intellectual work. Whether this is a positive or negative remark, obviously depends on the proclivities of the reader. Dusapin´s Faust may be downloaded via Pêcheurs des Perles here.

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

The singers: 4

The director: 4

The composer: 4

Overall impression: 3

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