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Less interesting is a new recording of Faust, an opera that can seem creakily old-fashioned, but if handled well can still pack a punch. This is the 1864 London version, which sounds of note, but in fact means that the spoken dialogue and ballet are cut, and the baritone has his Act II aria, ‘Avant de quitter ces lieux,’ which was originally composed for Sir Charles Santley. So in fact it’s Faust as a lot of us experience it anyway. (To be picky, the aria was originally written in English, ‘Even bravest heart may swell’.) Throw in a so-so cast and Ville Matvejeff’s gloomy conducting, and there’s nothing to threaten existing recordings. Aljaž Farasin reveals a pleasing tenor, but this isn’t the right role for him; Marjukka Teponnen’s soprano is the correct weight for Marguerite but she lacks detail, and when she screams instead of singing the top C at the end of Act III one wonders whether it’s an artistic choice or a vocal necessity.

Carlo Colombara tries to make something of Méphistophélès but doesn’t have much support, and Lucio Gallo’s Valentin sounds more like Marguerite’s grandfather than brother, plus he seemingly sings in a language of his own invention. The chorus is patchy, and when they sing a wobbly ‘Vin ou bière’ they sound as though they have had quite enough of both already.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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