So dramatic is Berlioz's "The Damnation of Faust" that the temptation to stage it as an opera--even though it was intended for concert performance--occasionally proves irresistible.
One such effort is director Bernard Uzan's three-act version for the Opera Company of Philadelphia, to be televised Sunday at 1 p.m. on Channel 28. It is a shoddy, sensationalistic interpretation.
Uzan fuses Faust the character and Berlioz the composer into one literally hospitalized figure whose drug-induced fantasy conjures up fascists, harlots, drunks, beaten-down peasants, flagellators and transvestites to act out the story.
The director's most offensive, tasteless idea is to show fascist thugs executing concentration camp prisoners--to the "Hungarian March." His silliest is to have Marguerite rise out of a coffin pulled on a wagon by angels. But Uzan's tampering extends to changing the ending to claim that, through all this, the composer-figure has been redeemed.