Royal Scottish National Orchestra: Damnation of Faust
Perth Concert Hall, Fri 5 Dec; Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Sat 6 Dec
There aren’t many musical happenings that are too big for Edinburgh Festival Theatre, but the RSNO’s Damnation of Faust is one of them. By far the biggest event of their season, it is huge. With the Usher Hall still closed, and nowhere else in Edinburgh to accommodate the scale of Berlioz’s epic ‘légende dramatique’, the nomadic RSNO head for Perth Concert Hall prior to performing at home in Glasgow. ‘It’s an opera in concert’, says RSNO Music Director Stephane Deneve, who is also a renowned Berlioz specialist, ‘and is very visual and suggestive in that it works with your imagination so that when you listen to the music you can imagine different moods, atmospheres, places. To me, what Berlioz did is like a movie. He is the Spielberg of the 19th century.’ In common with opera, there are soloists playing the characters of the story, chorus and, of course, full orchestra, not to mention children’s chorus plus backstage orchestra.
The tale concerns the sad and lonely old doctor, Faust, being tricked into making a pact with the devil because of his love for the beautiful Marguerite. So that she goes to heaven, Faust goes to hell. Berlioz was fascinated by the Faust legend and, according to Deneve, ‘It was certainly close to his personal story. It could almost be the Damnation of Berlioz!’
The cast assembled by the RSNO for this rare performance of the full score includes the stunning American mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore with fellow American Gregory Kunde taking the role of Faust. ‘It is a piece that is so fantastically passionate,’ says Deneve, ‘and if you don’t already know it, you will be blown away by its incredible tunes and sounds, especially with these top class singers who will make such an exciting evening of it.’