Rehashed premiere at Kaunas State Musical Theatre

Justina Paltanavičiūtė, 2011 01 28

Scenes from the opera “Marguerite”. Photos by Laimis Brundza

In brief: The author starts the article by the question “Faust” or “Marguerite”? Or “Faust and Marguerite”? Or perhaps “Mephistopheles”? This is a never-ending dilemma for stagers of this opera. The creator of the opera himself Charles Gounod was more inclined to “Faust and Marguerite” emphasising their love story. Later two traditions formed: the ones who wanted to embody the ideas of J. W. Goethe called the opera “Faust”; meanwhile, the ones who saw differences between the opera and the original tragedy of Goethe chose the title “Marguerite”.

Both variants have been staged at Kaunas State Musical Theatre. “Faust” was offered to admirers of opera in 1994 and this year the rehashed performance titled “Marguerite” was shown on the 22nd of January. According to the director Gintas Žilys, this time the creators wanted to emphasise the tragedy – love, fall and penance of Marguerite. The difference between the two variants of the opera is the focus on plot lines of different personalities and the new cast of soloists.

Marguerite, who became the main heroine of the opera, is the most dynamic role in the opera. At first she is a modest and playful girl in love, later she turns into a repentant and even mad woman. The metamorphosis was embodied by Raminta Vaicekauskaitė, and she coped with the main role rather well. Her sincere and dramatic acting in the church scene left the biggest impression. Still, the first appearance of the soloist on the stage was not so impressive visually and vocally.

Attempts were made to embody another idea of the opera creators (Ch. Gounod and libretto authors J. Barbier and M. Carre) – to turn the philosophical character of Faust into a man in love and to emphasise his feelings to Marguerite. It was really pleasant to listen to the lyrical amorous Faust performed by Mindaugas Zimkus, who spoke about love to Marguerite persuasively and sensitively. However, the premiere was not very successful to M. Zimkus as his voice started breaking or hoarsening while performing high notes – perhaps this was due to an illness.

There was not much of Marguerite on the stage, and Faust was pushed aside in the opera. Thus, who became the main character of the opera? Mephistopheles acted by Liudas Mikalauskas surprised and left a deep impression as he became the brightest personality of the performance. L. Mikalauskas embodied the intellectual villain perfectly as regards the vocals and the visual side.

Kaunas State Musical Theatre follows the tradition to stage all musical opuses in the Lithuanian language in order listeners would understand the text and the plot better. Still, the author observes that each opera has its own articulation, and, when the language is changed, it does not sound so organically as the original. But again, the Lithuanian language granted chamber colours to the opera.

Speaking about the entire performance in general, “Marguerite” of Kaunas State Musical Theatre was chamber. As the theatre is not big, it is impossible to place big decorations or change them all the time. Therefore, lights were used to create more atmosphere. Costumes of the performance were also colourful (artist Virginija Idzelytė); they imitated the clothes of German peasants of the 16th century. Meanwhile, as for the orchestra performance, the author notices that she lacked emotions and dynamics from the orchestra conducted by Julius Geniušas.

In conclusion, there was not so much of love in this staging of “Marguerite”: it was not close to the orchestra, and Marguerite enjoyed being dramatic. Although Faust was sincerely in love, he became a secondary character of the opera. The main idea of the work is the victory of the good and love against evil; still, isn't this the case when the intellectual devil overshadowed everything in the performance and became the main character? Asking again: Marguerite, Faust or Mephistopheles, the author answers - Mephistopheles!

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