Damnation of Faust: Sir Andrew Davis leads Terfel, Staples and choirs in Berloiz opera

Sir Andrew Davis
Sydney Morning Herald

In one of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's more epic stage productions for the year, Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust was presented in fine fashion at Hamer Hall.

Conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Berlioz's genre-defying concert opera featured both the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Men of the Sydney Philharmonia choirs alongside baritone Bryn Terfel, mezzo-soprano Renata Pokupic, tenor Andrew Staples and bass Shane Lowrencev.

Based on Goethe's legendary poem, the orchestra began the story of Faust with a well-paced stroll through the Hungarian countryside, unison violas and cello introducing the fine tenor Staples as Faust. In the first half, the orchestra moved seamlessly with the conductor to depict the expansive landscapes and physical surroundings of where the action takes place, with combined chorus setting a jolly and bouncy mood in various sections including the Ronde des paysans, and Choeur de Buveurs

Well executed brass phrases enabled a punchy rendition of the Marche Hongroise, whilst the chorus offered an enchanting Easter Hymn and Fugue in the first half. The dream-like musical sequences were also particularly noteworthy.

But it was in the second half where the wizardry of Sir Andrew Davis came to the fore, with the orchestra vividly responding to dramatic requests.