A Diva Who Resists Definition: The Met’s Faust May Have Provided Marina Poplavskaya’s Most Satisfying Lead Role Yet in New York

Her performance was attuned to Des McAnuff’s hard-edged, industrial vision

But even her fine, thoughtful performance could not save the latest in a series of drab, bland new productions at the Met. As in Michael Grandage’s Don Giovanni, there was an arbitrary quality to the stage action in this Faust, which was energized by Yannick Nezet-Seguin’s warmly propulsive conducting but chilled by a vision that seemed less rigorous than harshly scattered. Handsome and with burnished tone, Mr. Kaufmann is the platonic ideal of the Romantic leading man but he seemed underdirected and at sea, ringing in climactic high notes but muted elsewhere.

It takes a very specific, very self-motivated singer to make a production like this work. The stage mostly just seemed empty; as in Robert Lepage’s Ring cycle, there were attempts to engage the eye with video projections, but these were particularly cheesy ones. Once again there seemed to be little coherence in a director’s work at the Met; Mr. Gelb tends to be convinced by a one-line concept or the phrase “Tony Award winner.” Ms. Poplavskaya is far more interesting than much of the rest of the production, but she is far less easily compressed into marketing copy.



  1. Have not really been impressed with Marina who has hard edge and is not a great actress.  Netrebko is a tough act to follow.  I know Gelb has high hopes for Poplavskaya.  Unfortunately Gelb’s problems lie in the littany of poor productions.  The only ones that have shined are those co-produced with other opera houses.

  2. Dixie says:

    Thought Marina’s acting was superb!  All 3 leads were terrific.  Emotional,
    exhausting, BEAUTIFUL, opera!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I just saw Faust; I had to send a note to GELB! The soprano is second-rate, period. Any American Master student could have done better. She doesn’t have a strange technique, she has NO technique. She has extreme lip and jaw tension. The sound is uneven because there’s no column of breath with support. When she inhales she exhibits neck tension which belies serious flaws in training. The coloratura passages were a mess and as others have said, the high notes were tortured! She is billed as a spinto but she does not have the easy SIZE of a spinto that is at home with heavier roles. I know because I am a spinto and heavy roles, once they are worked into the voice are pretty effortless. She has to force which causes that hard sound.
    All of this seems to me the result of a new approach to opera that is visual. I like good staging; but it serves the singer, not the other way around. Opera is about great sound. Unforgettable moments of epiphany where SINGERS touch our souls. I don’t care if the person looks the part, is svelte, or young. In fact, in the past, most of the Met’s roster would still be honing their skills in local companies and touring productions. But there is a rush to use them while they are YOUNG and pretty. They aren’t seasoned so what we are getting are singers who are not yet developed and it shows. Who is going to buy a ticket for this? Seriously, scholrs and musicologists must be apoplexic! I know as a singer that it’s painful to watch Marina Poplavskaya. She will soon experience severe vocal problems and disappear to teach some poor trusting students who don’t know better. What a tragedy!