La Scala's new Eimuntas Nekrošius production of Gounod's Faust should have been one of the slightly cooler beacons in a depressing season packed with banal duds and tarnished stars. Lithuanian director Nekrošius, a master of modern stage direction, is celebrated in Europe for good reason as a progressive, imaginative, intelligent artist who brings peculiar and unique symbolism to theater and opera repertory. But La Scala, brimming with political nonsense and selfishness, blew up the new production quicker than the Hindenburg (too soon??!).
Cranky loggione (and frankly, all rightful ticketholders of Scala's bloated prices and hefty, non-refundable processing fees) decided from the punctual, 8pm separation of the magenta curtains that the show would not triumph. Not that there was much to be celebratory for: the week leading to opening night carried ripe rumors of a strike-keen staff. And when the curtain finally raised last night, there was a inconvenient stipulation: the chorus -- an unmatched mass in plain clothes and yellow ribbons pinned to their chests -- came out on stage before Stéphane Denève took to the podium and read their union's statement (bafflingly, in Italian only) explaining to the audience that they'd be un-costumed and unwilling to follow Nekrošius' direction in protest of government budget cuts. WTF? The loggione rioted with shouts of "Vergogna" and "These people have no respect -- we've paid for our tickets", booooo, hiss, rinse, repeat -- just another night at La Scala where opera is a contact sport and drama is a way of your life, right?
Then there was the orchestra, in mismatched jeans and t-shirts, who passive-aggressively delayed the curtain opening at the end of each pause, culminating in an opera that lasted 4.5 hours (the website estimated the show would only last 3.5 hours) and a booo-soaked curtain call that jeered the entire cast (including the supers!) -- although Irina Lungu’s Marguerite was spared consternation for her excellent interpretation. Booing which was not completely deserved by a decent (‘tho at times mediocre) cast and an adept conductor. But Nekrošius was robbed of his vision by the childish tactics of a chaotic, disorganized opera house that just can't seem to sort it out. If you destroy it, they won't come.
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