A very excellent new (as of last season) production of Gounod‘s Faust at the Staatsoper.
The cast contained Vienna regulars, which is to say they knew what they were doing. Well-sung and well-acted, the cast members were all comfortable with each other. Piotr Beczala sang a dynamic but tortured Faust. Soile Isokoski is too old to look the role of Gretchen any more, but she certainly knows how to sing and act it. Kwangchul Youn was a vibrant Mephistopheles. And Adrian Eröd, as Valentin, is an up-and-coming baritone who has an expressive voice which is also large enough to fill the house.
Musically the production was very fine, under the baton of Bertrand de Billy.
But in addition, the staging was simply executed by Nicolas Joel. This is a man who clearly familiarized himself completely with the opera, something that very few directors do these days. Although the scenery was minimal (not minimalist, just minimal), it contained everything that the libretto required (for example, Mephistofeles comments in passing at one point that he wears a feather in his hat – his hat did indeed have one feather). The cast members were directed to interact with each other, and to really act. So there really was no explanation of the staging necessary – it spoke for itself, which is exactly what a good director should do. Simple and elegant.