PERFORMER: Léopold Simoneau, Pierrette Alarie, Heinz Rehfuss, Liliane Berton; Vienna Opera Chorus, Orchestra of the Vienna Festival/Gianfranco Rivoli
CATALOGUE NO: VAIA 1143-3 ADD
This Faust, advertised as a 1963 recording, offers the benefit of Francophone singers in most of the major roles, including two of the finest artists of their types around that time: the Canadian tenor Léopold Simoneau as the rejuvenated philosopher and his wife Pierrette Alarie as Marguérite. They are the prime reasons for acquiring the set. Each is imbued with an authentic sense of French style, characterised by delicacy and understatement, and each is an expert vocalist. Their appearances are a constant joy. The German-born baritone Heinz Rehfuss is less imaginative and at times dull as Mephistopheles, while the Valentin (Paul Bicos), whatever his linguistic credentials, is overparted.
Even more of a problem is the conducting of Gianfranco Rivoli, whose aimless sense of structure and ponderous tempi squeeze the life from this vividly theatrical score. His ability to achieve a secure ensemble is irregular – even in the famous waltz, chorus and orchestra drift apart. On the plus side, he plays a longer edition of Faust than many, with a substantial Walpurgis Night scene and several other routine cuts opened. The sound is problematic, with a degree of coarseness and a worrying pre-echo in places. George Hall