COMPOSERS: Charles Gounod
LABELS: C Major DVD
ALBUM TITLE: Gounod
PERFORMER: Charles Castronovo, Ildar Abdrazakov, Irina Lungu, Vasilij Ladjuk, Samantha Korbey, Ketevan Kemoklidze, Paolo Maria Orecchia; Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Regio Torino/Gianandrea Noseda; dir. Stefano Poda (Turin, 2015)
CATALOGUE NO: C Major DVD: 735108; Blu-ray: 735204
Stefano Poda is a one-man band in the world of contemporary opera production. For this staging of Gounod’s popular classic, filmed in Turin in June 2015, he is credited as director, choreographer, set, costume and lighting designer – a full-house in visual terms.
He leaves the conducting, though, to the Teatro Regio’s music director, Gianandrea Noseda, who does a superb job in highlighting the dramatic sweep as well as the refined detail of Gounod’s most popular score, drawing taut playing from the theatre’s orchestra, if rather mottled tone from its chorus. A substantial edition is performed, including such frequently cut sections as Marguerite’s Spinning Song and the attractive ballet.
Poda’s unified approach holds the piece together, if at some cost to visual variety. The basic set focuses on a gigantic ring, which inevitably summons up Wagnerian associations as it moves in every conceivable direction. It also provides a versatile frame for a succession of scenes that are overwhelmingly dark, though the often eccentric costumes are a bit more varied – the merrymakers in the fair scene dress uniformly in red, while the returning soldiers sing their famous chorus in black wearing crowns of thorns.
Samantha Korbey’s Dame Marthe looks like a catwalk model. The blacked-up Nubians in the ballet will raise incredulous eyebrows, and as with the rest of the dancing their choreography is peculiar. Though Poda’s is undeniably a serious look at the piece, at times it’s enigmatic to the point of perversity.
It’s disappointing, too, that no native Francophone singers take part: most of the cast hails from Russia and further east, with some loss in terms of idiomatic textual delivery. Nevertheless there’s a high standard of singing from Charles Castronovo’s warmly lyrical Faust, Irina Lungu’s sentient and accomplished Marguerite, Ildar Abdrazakov’s grandly ironic Méphistophélès and Ketevan Kemoklidze’s boyishly handsome, vocally vibrant Siébel.