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The Lyric Stage: April 22 - An idiomatic "Faust"

When he was a music critic in the late 19th c., George Bernard Shaw complained about how often he had to review Faust - ninety times, he said, in the space of a few years. While not the most popular opera produced these days, as it was for decades, it still has a strong appeal to the opera public. Part of the reason for that appeal may be due it its Frenchness, even given the mostly Italian verismo approach taken to French opera in the last sixty years or so. 

This week we have selections from a 1931 performance that is a genuinely idiomatic interpretation in the French tradition, and gives us a feel  of what it might have been like to hear Faust at the Paris Opera when it was a new work in 1859.

The conductor for the highlights is Henri Busser (1872-1973), a friend of Jules Massenet and also a of  Charles Gounod himself late in the composer's life. Gounod was a mentor to Busser, and helped him get a job as an organist in Paris. Busser  became a composer and conductor himself  very much in the French 19th century tradition of restraint in performance and idiomatic use of the language. Busser's early electric recording of Gounod's Faust in 1931 with French singers is as rooted in the French style of opera as he was,  and with sound directly mastered from the old 78 recordings, is a gem.