Mephistopheles: A grand show at Bucharest Opera House

Melodic abundance, exuberant innovation, an elegant orchestration, a most poignant poetic message, a perfect union between the libretto and the score, a 200-strong cast and highly suggestive lighting – these are only a few of the qualities recommending the grand opera production “Mephistopheles”, by Arrigo Boito, presented for the second time this season on Saturday night by the Bucharest National Opera (ONB), after a break of over 13 years.This is the only opera ever written by Arrigo Boito (1842-1918), on his real name Enrico Giuseppe Giovanni Boito, an Italian poet, journalist and novelist, best known today for his libretti, especially those for Giuseppe Verdi’s operas, “Otello” and “Falstaff”. However, this one opera is undoubtedly a masterpiece.An iconic name of Italian culture, Boito composed “Mephistopheles” to his own libretto, based on Goethe’s “Faust”. An ambitious spirit, the artist always sought the exceptional in his body of work. True to his principles, he strove and managed to forge a synthesis between the two parts of Goethe’s play, joined seamlessly by a score which on occasion rises to Wagnerian heights.The eccentric, controversial figure of Doctor Faustus, seen by some of his contemporaries as a fraud, revered by others as a great scholar of mankind, is approached masterfully, highlighting alternatively the lyrical, the grotesque, the philosophical or the poetic dimension of human existence.The original setting, based on the image of a chessboard, was designed by stage setting artist Catalin Ionescu-Arbore in 1999 at the Iasi National Opera. “For me coming back to it was like meeting an old acquaintance, you’ve nearly forgotten, after 20 years. The strange thing was that, while time has taken its toll on me, the old ‘acquaintance’ I had not seen in so many years shocked me by the freshness of its face,” Catalin Ionescu-Arbore, now the ONB director, argued. The new production is directed by Anda Tabacaru-Hogea, the choreography is signed by celebrated dancer Razvan Mazilu, while the two choirs were conducted by maestros Stelian Olariu and Vasile Corjos. The entire performance was conducted by one of the most beloved master-conductors of the young generation, Tiberiu Soare. Music-lovers have the chance to see this unique opera production two more times this     season, on March 2 and 30.

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