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Customer Review

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Opera Films of all time, April 20, 2005
This review is from: Boito - Mefistofele / Arena, Ramey, Benackova, San Francisco Opera (DVD)
This is one of my top five operas of all time. Boito may not have been Verdi, but this one opera has some of the most powerful, sublime, and tear-jerking beauty of any opera-period. What make's Boito's Faust/Mefistofele story different is that the central character is the title character. It's a story about the struggles of the devil, more than the moral and philosophical wrestling's o Faust. Boito's Mefistofele is almost human in his pathos. He defeat at the end is highlighted by the real betrayal he feels, both by Faust and, more importantly, by God.

That being said, this is also a fantastic presentation wonderfully captured on DVD. It's over the top at times because the opera is over the top, in that beautiful late Romanticism. Ramey is superb, as is Benackova and even Arena as Faust (he really is very good, I only qualify my praise since in both of my CD versions, Domingo is the tenor-a tough act to follow, but Arena does a great job).

Samuel Ramey does a great job with the title character. This is a very difficult role for any bass to sing, but to sing well takes an extra special voice and dramatic talent. Few have mastered this role. I have listened to many of the historic recordings of this opera (either whole or highlights) and in my opinion, only two basses, Ramey and the late Norman Treigle have really captured the raw sensuality that this role demands without sacrificing the beauty of the vocal part. In that sense, Treigle was this role. He championed it, and it was his signature role. It's a pity we don not have film of him performing this opera-- I understand the sexuality he brought to the role was pretty controversial in New York in the late 1960's. But for power and sex, Ramey's no slouch. He demonstrates a sarcastic, sensual sophisticate quality that makes this devil at bit more likeable, and all the more evil that the stereotypical man in the red-union suit. I love the scene in the final, where he is drinking whiskey from the bottle, smoking and throwing cards into a hat, while he waits for Faust to make up his mind. That is a great bit of staging that adds so much to this opera.

Overall, this is a great production, wonderfully staged and recorded. It would make a wonderful addition to any opera collection.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 12, 2014, 7:13:44 PM PST
"Arena as Faust"? Arena's the conductor!
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Location: Eagle River, AK United States

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