Find the perfect dress for every occasion...
DIRECTOR & SET DESIGNER:
Pierre du Toit
CONDUCTOR: Thamsanqa Zungu
CAST: Nkululeko Masuku, Thando Zwane, Ziyanda Mhlauli, Sibusiso Qwabe, Nteboheng Leboea, Joey Masemola, Sibusiso Shandu and Mmatapa Onica Ramatjela
PIANIST: Eugene Joubert
CHOIR: TUT Vocal Art Chorus
VENUE: Breytenbach Theatre, 137 Gerard Moerdyk St, Sunnyside, Pretoria
Faust by the Frenchman Charles Francois Gounod (1818-1893) is a tough nut of an opera to crack, especially when cast with vocal students and sung in a language they don’t know: French.
It is also the kind of work which survives. We relish the melodies and marvel that one can come so close on the heels of another. We also surprise ourselves with the beauty of some half-forgotten passage before being moved by the charm or pathos of another.
The TUT’s Department of Vocal Art has given us commendable opera productions over the years, like last year’s Don Giovanni. With Faust they are dogged by ill-luck because of compromises made in the casting. They have not totally succeeded in scotching the jinx, but we must remember that these young singers are new in their roles.
Musically it is in solid hands. Conductor Thamsanga Zungu does not force a great deal of grandeur on to the music, but he and the brilliantly suggestive and detail- endorsing pianist, Eugene Joubert, are in accord. In, for instance, the Prelude and at Valentin’s death a depth of feeling is probed, while in the kermesse scene they fully enter into the fun of the fair.
Masuku suggests in his singing of the Faust role something of his growing remorse at what he has done to Marguerite (Mhlauli). He conveys this and his earlier, unthinking passion in plaintive, attractive tones marred occasionally by uncertain pitch (especially the top C) and peculiar French.
Mhlauli’s Marguerite has a firmness in her voice. She has learnt to insert a little laugh into the Jewel Song, but it seldom spreads into her voice or from that into what might be called a voice-face. Her prison scene is devoid of pathos.
Leboea (Siebel) has a solid voice, but she is a bit too self-conscious at times.
Then there is Zwane as Méphistophélès in a classic interpretation, or very near to it. Zwane is the only one among the principals to act with the voice. There is panache, an acute pointing of words, a capacity for lightness. He is observant of note values and dynamics.
Masemola makes Valentine a fully aware character, with vocal contributions lifting the average standard of the cast.
Shandu manages to elevate the small role of Wagner, while Ramatjela as Marthe Schwerlein is more than just an emotional support to Marguerite.
The TUT Vocal Art chorus perform with élan as citizens and soldiers, while the inclusion of the ballet is never a given – even with professional stagings. Here we have it, although the technique of the five dancers seldom formed a stylistic whole.
Pierre du Toit as director and set designer brought many talents to centre stage. Apart from a strange architectural mixture in a couple of scenes, he also attended to micro detail in the body language and movements of characters, even in the mass scenes.
This Faust, although not perfect , is an achievement from a company which is the breeding ground of future Pretty Yendes.
• Performances: tomorrow and Friday at 7pm. Sunday at 3pm. To book call 012 440 4834 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.