This season, defying the predictions of some operagoers, the Metropolitan Opera managed to tame its technologically temperamental Robert Lepage production of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, and to largely quiet its mammoth set of rotating planks, designed by Carl Fillion.
So it was something of a surprise on Friday when, citing “unanticipated technical demands,” the Met announced that it was pulling the plug on the revival of another video-heavy Lepage-Fillion production it had announced for next season: Berlioz’s “La Damnation de Faust.”
Instead of its planned run of seven staged performances of the “Faust,” the Met now plans to give four concert performances of it between Jan. 25 and Feb. 8, featuring the same cast, led by the mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca, the bass Ildar Abdrazakov, with the tenors Bryan Hymel and Michael Spyres dividing the title role. It will be conducted by Edward Gardner.
In its announcement, the company said, “The decision to present Faust in its more usual concert version is driven by the unanticipated technical demands of reviving the Met’s staged production, impossible to accommodate within the company’s crowded production schedule.”
When the production was new, officials said that it introduced “an unprecedented level of technological stagecraft to the house,” relying on interactive video designed by the artist Holger Förterer that responded to the singers’ movements and voices and showed grassy meadows and fiery hells. Those images were projected on a set of metal scaffolding and catwalks.
Also when it debuted, in 2008, Anthony Tommasini wrote in The New York Times that its video imagery was “stunning,” even as he expressed reservations that the use of so much video flattened the scenic impact. But he added that to “judge from the rousing ovation Mr. Lepage received, this innovative production looks to be a popular success.”
The Met said that it decided not to revive the production after officials realized that they would need to revamp some elements of it to meet newer industry safety standards, refurbish some of its automated mechanical systems, and update video projections that are more than a decade old.
In a way, the Met’s decision to perform the “Faust” in a concert version is a return to the roots of the work: Berlioz described it as a “dramatic legend in four parts,” and it was often performed in concert halls before directors later began to try to stage it.