Cher Public

Muscle of love

On this day in 2005, the Metropolitan Opera presented a new production of Faust directed by Andrei Serban and conducted by James Levine

Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times:

Mr. Pape shows up as the Devil in a silly-looking rendition of a festive princely regalia, with puffy breeches and red tights. These are Mr. Pape’s first performances as Méphistophélès, and he already owns the role. His singing is robust, incisive and chilling. So why make him look ridiculous?

The worst for him comes later, during the terrifying scene in the village church, where the guilt-racked Marguerite, pregnant with Faust’s child, goes to pray. Here Mr. Pape, wearing a rubberized bodysuit, appears as a naked Devil, complete with bulging muscles, exposed genitals and a serpent’s tail.

Conjuring up something out of Hieronymus Bosch seems to be the idea. But when you have a singer who is really hunky, who exudes charisma and can convey danger with just a leering smile, why put him in a costume that elicits titters from the house? It’s a relief when Mr. Pape appears in the final scene, looking utterly menacing in plain black pants and shirt.

. . . . Opera buffs should still attend, if only to hear the strong cast and marvel at Mr. Levine’s work. And you don’t want to miss Mr. Pape in the muscled naked bodysuit. Everyone will be talking about it.

Born on this day in 1911 baritone Leonard Warren.

Photo: Marty Sohl