I sort of already wrote up Faust, so just a few comments now, since on the whole, I agree with me.
Much to my surprise, I think I'd take this cast over the one that opened the production, though that may be mainly about Soile Isokoski and the newly wonderful Ruth Ann Swenson. I once had a brunch go very awkward over the fact that as Lucia, I found her utterly banal. (Doesn't that sound like I was having brunch with Ruth Ann Swensen? 'K, think that if you want.) Since then, her voice has settled into a warm, pliant thing though the last few notes are a little dire, and her acting has gone from nonexistent as I remember it to rather moving. It was always a substantial sound and remains so. Marguerite isn't really a money note role anyway as long as you sound solid in the trio.
If one were to look back over the last 15 years, can there be many singers who have been consistently so rewarding to hear as Ramon Vargas? No, I'm actually asking, or at least half asking. I have missed plenty of his work but every few years when I check in he's still such a class act. True, he didn't bowl me over in Romeo et Juliette but I don't think anyone would've. It's just not an opera I can deal with. As Faust he left nothing to be desired, vocally speaking. If he had better stage instincts, he'd be unquestionably a better choice than Alagna, who I adored in this role during the first run of the production. As it is, he's just a better singer. I heard him the morning of the performance on Sirius singing an equally lovely Alfredo to a pleasantly restrained Fleming. Personal to RV: can we be pals? Best Friends 4EVAR? Mejores amigos pa' siempre?
Tommi Hakala I missed on Sirius the other night, and he's really an interesting, not straightforward singer. I'm surprised to find by googling him that aside from being pretty cute, which is statistically very likely if you're Finnish, he's also apparently young. He doesn't sound it. The voice is kind of all over the place, most unruly. And he pours it out with a generosity that stands in contrast to all that caution that makes for long, dull careers. Jesus, he'd make a great Wozzeck, not least because his acting is (on the evidence of one performance) good and over the top.
Not much to add about Abdrazakov--still impressed. Still wondering about the bottom of his voice, but it's not a big deal. When you can hit it out of the park in the "et Satan conduit le bal" range, you can sell enough of the role that only the very sourest would throw a fach-fit.
A propos de rien, or is it just a propos rien?, Bernard Holland's review of Gioconda made me kinda happy.
p.s. Why is there no recording of Dalibor on itunes? What is the world coming to?