Gounod’s Faust

The Lyric’s now showing Charles Gounod’s Faust. I’m quite new to opera so I don’t know how this sits with most fans, but I found the set design and use of deliberately jerky, old style animation and video captivating. These effects seemed at once and modern.

Faust is a well known tale of a miserable old man, a scholar on the verge of suicide, who feels life has slipped away. He could or should be so much more, he thinks. Life is unbearable without true love.

In walks Méphistophélès, the devil’s assistant, who has a deal. Méphistophélès offers to make Faust young again, which thrills Faust. Before he knows it, Faust has met the love of his life, an innocent, young woman named Marguerite, who in this production cannot walk without crutches. I haven’t sorted out if I think that enhanced the story, I tend to think it didn’t, mainly, because I’m not sure why that choice was made.

A subplot involves Siébel, a young man in town who’s in love with Marguerite. Siébel promises Marguerite’s brother that he’ll protect her while the brother is off at war. For Marguerite, there’s no chance of love with Siébel, who’s strictly friend material. I have no idea why a woman played Siébel. That choice did make it clear why Marguerite chose Faust, who was taller, stronger and manly.

Of course, things aren’t going to work out. Faust learns the price for his new-found youth is his soul. Marguerite winds up in love with Faust, unmarried and pregnant searching for some option out of her desperate situation.

The opera was innovative, but as much as I found the set design innovative, it did compete too much with the performances.

This opera’s pre-performance talk was very good as it not only provided a clear, engaging synopsis but added details into the composer Charles Gounod’s career and reason for writing this particular piece.

 

Mary Poppins

mary poppins

This month’s book club selection was the children’s classic Mary Poppins. Saving Mr. Banks prepared me for some differences between the film starring Julie Andrews and the actual book, but it led me to think the father was a prominent character, who needed redemption. Well, not in the book, he doesn’t. He’s not a big part of the story.

In fact the book is more of a collection of delightful, imaginative experiences that happen while Mary is with the Banks family. More happens in the novel. Michael and Jane have baby fraternal twin siblings who can understand the communication of animals, stars and all of nature. When they go Christmas shopping with Mary, they meet and help Maia one of the stars in the Pleiades constellation who appears like an almost naked child wearing a simple blue cloth.

Mary is a mystery, a strict mystery. She comes to a family that lost their nanny, but the children weren’t bad so there was no dire need for discipline. Sure they’re not keen on chores, but they get along with each other and seem to obey.

I rewatched the film on my flight to Beijing and Mary’s not all that nice in it either. She’s a stick in the mud and very strict. For some reason though she’s magical and loves imagination, she constantly hides the fact. I was startled that a classic children’s book would end with an adult who pretty much abandons children. Yes, she told everyone she’d leave when the wind blew and she never was one for explanations, but really? Abandonment is terrible for kids and just leaving a job without giving notice is not something we want to encourage. What would Freud say?