Giornale della musica
Luca Del Fra (translation by Alexander Martin)
Berlioz: La damnation de Faust, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome, 21 October 2006
La damnation de Faust: concert or theatre?
The symphony season at the Santa Cecilia was inaugurated in the presence of leading exponents of the Italian Republic – Napolitano, Rutelli, Veltroni, and councillors for regions and local bodies – something that had not happened in years.
The challenge at the opening of the symphony season of the Santa Cecilia was to bring 'La damnation de Faust' back to its original concert form. Since the end of the nineteenth century it has enjoyed a well-established tradition of stagings, the best of which can probably be found in contemporary theatre, which had a ball with Berlioz's rhapsodic narration. In this sense, Pappano's approach is two-sided, with a decidedly symphonic atmosphere that can be felt in the first two parts, a remarkable extension of tempos that benefits the sinuous phrasing, sharp accelerations with moments of directorial virtuosity such as during the Hungarian March, and dizzy crescendos that create psychological tension. It has to be said that Kaufmann was not particularly helpful in all of this. Although his dark timbre would suit the Faust character well, it would appear that he had a cold on this occasion. From the inn scene onwards it was more the theatrical and instinctive dimension that got the upper hand, centring on Schrott's particularly amiable and intriguing Mephistopheles; a charming Marguerite by Kasarova provided the best moments of song. After four years, back under the control of choirmaster Balatsch, the Choir of Santa Cecilia confirms its class by creating an extraordinary difference between the voice of the people, the inn, the demons, and of the celestial spirits sung by the treble voices. Equally remarkable was the performance of the orchestra, with spectacular viola and oboe solos. Pappano would appear to be the ideal conductor for a pleasant evening of music that ends with the hope – and without all the brouhaha currently surrounding the Festival of Cinema at Rome's Auditorium – that he will return to the score to deliver the final the coup de grace.

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