Boito’s Mephistopheles from San Francisco Opera

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ildar Abdrazakov as Mefistofele Ildar Abdrazakov as Mefistofele (San Francisco Opera)

Saturday at 1 pm, the new season of broadcasts from San Francisco Opera kicks off with Boito’s resplendent retelling of Goethe’s Faust.

The cast includes tenor Ramón Vargas as the philosopher who sells his soul to the Devil; Patricia Racette as the woman he desires; and, in the vividly menacing title role, the bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov. Nicola Luisotti conducts the Robert Carsen production.


Mefistofele  Ildar Abdrazakov
Faust   Ramon Vargas
Wagner  Chuanyue Wang
Adam   Luke Lazzaro
Eve   Brook Broughton
Margherita   Patricia Racette
Marta   Erin Johnson
Elena   Patricia Racette
Pantalis    Renee Rapier
Nereo   Chuanyue Wang

CONDUCTOR:  Nicola Luisotti
STAGE DIRECTOR:  Laurie Feldman

San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus  

Comments [21]

Robert St.Onge from Cochiti Lake,NM

I goofed. It was Carol Neblett not Carol Vaness who sang the dual parts at NYCO.

Aug. 23 2014 04:45 PM
Robert St.Onge from Cochiti Lake,NM

Monserrat Caballe recorded both roles on the Angel recording with Treigle and Domingo, Julius Rudel conducting. The sopranos in the fabled New York City Opera production (Carol Vaness, Gilda Cruz Romo et al) always did both parts. Treigle, and later Ramey, of course were superb but Treigle owned the part. Abdrazakov is a worthy successor, Vargas was his usual magnificent self. The part of Margerita lies a bit low for Racette but she gets it. Elena, as Les mentioned, was just right. And a tremendous roar of approval for the Chorus and Orchestra and for the inspired leadership of Maestro Luisotti. Bravi tutti!

Aug. 23 2014 04:23 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

"Lontano, lontano" is a duet for Margherita and Faust, not Elena and Faust. But I'm fascinated that Patricia Racette sang both Margherita and Elena, Faust's love interest and perhaps the ideation of it in Helen of Troy. She's the first in my experience who's sung or recorded both roles. Very provacative.

Aug. 23 2014 03:53 PM
Madison from Manhattan

Bravo Ramon Vargas! A long time favorite of mine.Terrific singing all the way through.

Aug. 23 2014 03:52 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

Ditto all the names of legendary singers in this opera. To the Marschallin: it's "Mefistofele" in Italian and "Mephistopheles" in English. The Prolgue and Act I were performed as Act I in this production. Act II comprised the orchestra score's Act II ending with the "Notte del Saba" "Sabbath Night" AND Act III, "Morte di Margerita" "Death of Margherita". Act III in this production included both Act IV "La Notte Del Sabba Classico" "The Night of the Classic Sabbath" with Helen of Troy and Pantalis and the Epilogue, "La morte di Faust", "The Death of Faust." Bravissimo to Abdrazakov and Vargas (especially in "Guinto sul passo estremo), as well as to the Chorus (including the boys' choir the "Cherubim"), the Orchestra and to Maestro Luisotti. I was disappointed with Racette's "L'altra notte" as I was happy with her as Elena, especially in the lower thirds sung with Faust in the "Lontano, lontano" duet. That Sabbath Night was truly scary with the chorus's intentional overly-accented beginning syllables and the strings' playing "portamento", as close to the bridge of the instrument as possible while retaining tone, the better to make it more sinister.

Aug. 23 2014 03:46 PM
CastaDiva from New York, NY

Superb Vargas. Lovely, plangent sound, from start to finish. Bravo.

Aug. 23 2014 03:28 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

What a bang up opening. I always won bets and was able to name the opera this Chorus of Angels was from. After collecting, I would remark "I thought you were going to play something hard".
CBC: Glad you are well.I also remember Millo. She sang beautifully.
Tante belle cose.

Aug. 23 2014 02:41 PM

I like Racette's voice but I think she's fallen into the "I can sing heavier roles now" & it's showing in the noticeable wobble, not yet a tremolo in her voice.

Aug. 23 2014 02:37 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

If naming names would assist one in relating how much admired the role of Mephisofele is among basses one could list dozens of great artists including Alexander Kipnis, Ezio Pinza, Cesare Siepi, Jerome Hines, Eduard De Reszke, Giulio Neri, Nicolai Ghiarov, Feodor Chaliapin, Samuel Ramey, Marcel Journet, Luigi Lablache and Norman Treigle. As Faust the TWO names most favorably associated with the role are Enrico Caruso and Beniamino Gigli. In ALL the cases of the above one need only have mentioned their last names. Great as Boito was with this opera and his Nerone one has to salute his reviving the maestro VERDI's interest in continuing composing especially considering that Verdi's last works were his greatest OTELLO and FALSTAFF. ILDAR ABDRAZAKOV is a splendid Mephistofele vocally and drmaturgically. SO EXPRESSIVE !!!

Aug. 23 2014 02:03 PM
The Marschallin from New York, NY

So,how should this Mephisto be spelled? You have me devilishly confused: like the WQXR title or the Italian Mefisto?

Aug. 23 2014 01:18 PM

CBC all is well here. hope the same can be said for you. Ofcourse I meant not to slight Ramey - great Mephisto. I'm lucky enough to have a Chicago b'cast with Millo. She sounds so much like Tebaldi, it's scary & tremendously beautiful.

Aug. 23 2014 01:15 PM
Robert St.Onge from Cochiti Lake,NM

'Man-scaping' in opera is nothing new. Sherrill Milnes in 'Thais' divested himself of much of his clothing in the final scene, thus assuring that the Thais of Beverly Sills would ascend to heaven with a good eyeful, both in San Francisco and at the Met. Out here in Santa Fe a few seasons ago, the Billy Budd of Teddy Tahu Rhodes so regularly shed his shirt that it explained Claggart's repressive behavior. As Nathan Lane exclaimed in "The Producers", "When ya got it, flaunt it."

Aug. 23 2014 01:05 PM
James from Philadelphia

Let us not forget Norman Treigle and his brilliant hair-raising performance at the New York City Opera.

Aug. 23 2014 12:58 PM
Howard from Florida's "Mefistofele".

Aug. 23 2014 12:40 PM
Howard from Florida

Many people sell Arrigo Boi"to short as a composer, which is a shame. His "Mephistofele" (there's no final "s" in Italian) is his masterpiece, but "Nerone" (Nero) is sometimes performed. He was a powerful influence, along with publisher Ricordi, as to which of the then contemporaries got performed and where. In addition to writing the libretti to "Otello" and "Falstaff", he also wrote the libretto for "La Gioconda", though using an anagram for his name "Tobia Gorria".

Aug. 23 2014 12:06 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

That is, Boi"to was the first Italian librettist-composer. The Prologue was on Toscanini's last broadcast program (along with Verdi's "Te Deum"). He's the only ocnductor (at least that I've ever heard) who has the offstage band play 13 bars before the final Celestial Choir sings the main melody "Ave, Signor". It's not in the Kalmus full score that's a Ricordi reprint of what looks like the autograph. With or without, I'm looking forward to what could be an overwhelming performance.

Aug. 23 2014 09:06 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

Giulio Neri's basso profundo was a towering and frightening Mephistophele. Boi"to was a member of the Scapiglatura movement and was the first to write his own libretto and music as was conductor Franco Faccio and one of Puccini's "Manon Lescaut" librettists, Emilio Praga. They were considered Wagnerians and an artistic schism developed between them and "traditional" Italian composers and audiences. The Prologue in the words of Vincent Sheean "In a sense, the prologue makes the opera unnecessary; in another sense, inevitable." It has a climax equalled --- but I think not surpassed --- in all of orchestral and operatic literature. But, first-time listeners, give the whole opera a chance. It's rather episodic like "Boris Godounoff." Here's an opera that's a real challenge for all concerned.

Aug. 23 2014 08:54 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

CBC: Hope you are well. I remember Siepi. This opera is beautiful.

Aug. 23 2014 07:09 AM
Adele F (aka AF) from Nassau County, Long Island

Ramey sang the role at the Met not so very long ago, and he was good, too!

Aug. 23 2014 04:43 AM

Please don't omit Siepi, Hines & Ghiarov.

Aug. 22 2014 07:24 PM
James Koenig from L.A./N.Y.

I tend to agree with Rossini who when asked to define opera, answered. "Voce, voce, voce."
Whoever would have thought that man-scaping would become part of preparing a role?
The Boito Mephistopheles brings to mind the vocal portrayals of Chaliapin, Norman Treigel, and others who made the role famous, and devilish, and sexy with costumes creating the illusion-- and vocal portrayals that weren't preoccupied with "sucking it in."

Aug. 21 2014 09:09 PM

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