BEST OPERA - 2000
The Minnesota Opera
The Minnesota Opera, now in its 37th year, has built a reputation for postmodern experimentation (although those who attended the company's recent Semiramide can attest that said experiments are not always fruitful). While 1999's Faust was about as far from the avant-garde as opera gets, it was nevertheless the most compelling of the Opera's recent offerings. This Faust was that rare opera production in which the music--featuring sonorous tenor Paul Charles Clarke in the title role and Daniel Sumegi as a diabolically suave Mephistopheles--and the physical scenery--Earl Stanley's lavishly rococo set pieces imported from the Houston Grand Opera--worked in perfect harmony. Eschewing the minimalism that is in vogue these days, the producers opted instead for a setting worthy of a 19th-century Romantic painting: gilt arches, a rich chiaroscuro, and nymphs frolicking everywhere. Though Faust itself is about the folly of material ambition, the Minnesota Opera's headlong leap into opulence proved a surprisingly guiltless pleasure.