Review: Faust

Manchester Theatre Awards – Review by Philip Radcliffe
“Bold, breathtaking, and … brilliant…visually spellbinding”

‘… the inventive Clonter take on this mighty work, led by Michael McCaffery and conductor Clive Timms, turns out to be bold, breathtaking and, in the end, brilliant. The staging absolutely captures the decadent pleasure-bent atmosphere of 1860’s Paris. Designer Elroy Ashmore’s set, imaginatively lit by David L Sadler, is a giant semi-circular hall of mirrors with a small Palace of Varieties theatre stage, red plush curtains and all …The theatricality works a treat. The truly climatic last two acts are visually spellbinding. The candle-lit church scene, with fairy lights in all those mirrors, of Act 4, stressing the importance in all this of the Catholic church, is unforgettable. Both acts are dramatically breathtaking…The singing overall is first-rate. In the central role of Marguerite, soprano Anna Gillingham is altogether captivating and sings gloriously… Mephistopheles, a boo-able figure in black and red, is reminiscent of MC in Cabaret, swaggering, would-be amusing, threatening. Javier Borda, a big man, fills the part splendidly…’

Manchester Evening News Critic Robert Beale (Commented on the Above Review)
‘Fully agreed. Music director Clive Timms and director Michael McCaffery have taken Faust back to its roots as an ‘opéra comique’, with spoken dialogue, and presenting it in English effectively captures its satirical aspect…With choruses turned into quartets, everyone worked hard, the ‘supporting’ roles such as Siebel (Katherine Aitken – a young Irish singer with a beautiful tone) and Martha (Heather Ireson – a star in Royal Northern College of Music opera and a gifted actress) as vital as the main protagonists, as were Thomas Hopkinson, another excellent performer from the RNCM, as Wagner and Dominick Felix as Brander. Paul Curievici (Faust) has the kind of tenor that would fill a much bigger house than Clonter’s and high notes that should take him a long way in the opera world. Javier Borda was excellent as Mephistopheles, with dark, lugubrious tone and a real gift for comedy.’

Audience Feedback

One of our Donors
“We were thrilled to bits with last night’s performance of Faust. A wonderful new production …. all aspects delighted us. Congratulations to all concerned, performers, director and all associated. We so often feel productions are sometimes spoiled, even ruined – by an excess of resources, and the doing of things just because they can be done (not, of course, at Clonter!). We especially enjoy seeing and hearing opera at Clonter for this very reason. We look forward to bringing a couple of young people in September – who knows, we might convert them!”

Director of Brewin Dolphin
“Just a quick note to say what a great performance we were lucky enough to see on Saturday evening, it was a truly memorable performance, which not only did I enjoy enormously, but so did the guests we entertained.”

Ex-Head of Performing Arts at a Local Comprehensive School
“Tonight was absolutely fabulous in every aspect/direction/set/singers/orchestra…”

General Audience Feedback
“We really enjoyed the performance…as usual…our thanks to the cast and everyone involved in producing such a great evening.”

“We were in a party of 10…All in all, a great tribute to all that has been achieved at Clonter during these past 40 years.”

“I much enjoyed Faust; fine singing, stage settings and orchestra and very clever choreography, fitting it into a small stage”

“We didn’t know what to expect, and we got the unexpected…in true Clonter style! Comedy and tragedy went side by side. Moments of farce followed scenes of high passion and tragedy…a most devilishly flamboyant Mephistopheles manipulated his victims…the set made us think of a Parisian Music Hall of the 1890s, with plush banquettes and huge revolving mirrors; the costumes were a kaleidoscope of colour and style; the singing was superb (all in English), likewise the orchestra. Another Clonter night to remember.”



Faust – Paul Curievici
Mephistopheles – Javier Borda
Marguerite – Anna Gillingham
Valentine – Christopher Cull
Siebel – Katherine Aitken
Martha – Heather Ireson
Wagner – Thomas Hopkinson
Brander – Dominick Felix

Conductor – Clive Timms
Director – Michael McCaffery
Assistant Music Director – Robin Humphreys
Set & Costume Designer – Elroy Ashmore
Lighting Designer – David L Sadler
Fight Director – Renny Krupinski

Clonter Sinfonia
Violin 1 – Susannah Simmons
Violin 2 – Laura Concar
Viola – Joise Goynes
Cello – Douglas Badger
Bass – Richard Waldcock
Flute – Jennifer George
Oboe – Bethan Roberts
Clarinet – Sarah Masters
Bassoon – Linton Stephens
Horn 1 – Matthew Crossley
Horn 2 – Samuel Yates
Trumpet – Matthew Palmer
Timpani/Percussion – Andrea Vogler
Organ – Robin Humphreys