It was Opening Night at the Opera on Saturday, for the short summer stretch of the season; Gounod's Faust is an over-roasted chestnut, on the top ten most performed list at most major opera houses. But for the occasion, that's not a bug. It's a feature to re-acquaint oneself with the art form after the spring break. Familiarity breeds comfort, and this production (from the Lyric Opera of Chicago) won't challenge this feeling of coming back to a well worn slipper. Still, with a few outstanding moments and some nice promotional discounts (code faustdeal10), it's quite enough for a very pleasant evening out.
First, despite its name, Faust spends a lot of its focus away from its namesake character. The two key protagonists really are Mephistopheles and Marguerite, and Faust is only a proxy in a wider fight between the M&Ms, between the fall and the salvation. Let us explain: Faust is this old scientist who convinced himself of the old adage: youth is wasted on the young. Or he's just a pervy old lech, Gounod's libretto is much shallower than Goethe's book. Anyway, he'd like to get rid of his arthritis and wrinkles. Comes in the devil, who offers not only youth, but a tempting teenage beauty, Marguerite. And it's the seduction, sin and redemption of Marguerite which takes over, pushing Faust aside.