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Scene Last Night: Bruce Kovner, Christopher Plummer, Ann Ziff

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Met Opera's Faust
Christopher Plummer and Canadian senator Serge Joyal. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) -- While the devil was still putting on his white suit and top hat for the new production at the Metropolitan Opera of Gounod’s “Faust,” mere mortals were starting their night with cocktails in the Grand Tier.

Canadian arts patron Jacqueline Desmarais, in a purple gown and Jar jewels, said she was excited to see one of her proteges, Michele Losier, perform the role of Siebel.

Nearby Christopher Plummer and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia met.

“I adore opera,” said Plummer, who can next be seen in the U.S. film adaptation of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” “I’ve gone ever since I was a child. I’ve heard the best and seen the best.”

Met board trustees Ann Ziff, Adrienne Arsht, Kevin Kennedy, Bruce Kovner, Mercedes Bass and Fred Iseman settled down for pasta with butternut squash, roasted duck with rainbow chard and brulee tart.

Also present: the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s director, Thomas Campbell; the Museum of Modern Art’s director, Glenn Lowry; Oppenheimer Funds Inc.’s Philipp Hensler; Paul Matus, a portfolio manager at Smith Affiliated Capital Corp.; Teresa Principe of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.; literary agent Lynn Nesbit; and Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel.

The production by Des McAnuff updated the old story about a lonely medieval philosopher who can no longer get girls and wants to die to the 20th century. As you may remember, the devil helps him out with good results for a while.

Images of bombs, laboratories, scientists and soldiers filled the stage. After the last trio, the cast party got under way.

On Antibiotics

Rene Pape, the devil, arrived in a gray suit and red boutonniere. Jonas Kaufmann, Faust, wore black Nike sneakers. There was no Marguerite: Marina Poplavskaya went home after the performance because she is on antibiotics, Met spokeswoman Lee Abrahamian said.

Mephistopheles is “a big character,” Pape said. “It’s hard to describe in a few words. He’s funny, seductive. He’s mean. And the music shows everything.”

For some audience members, the singing by Poplavskaya, Kaufmann and Pape was enough to make them happy. “That was the best singing you’ll ever hear in this house, with those three,” Kovner said.

McAnuff, a busy man, said it was “total coincidence” that he’d wound up directing “Faust” at the same time as a revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

‘Closer to Heaven’

“My mission was to “secularize ‘Faust.’ I want the story to be accessible to a nonreligious audience while allowing those who are religious to have an extraordinary experience.”

Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, described his own experiences during remarks at the cast party.

“Running an opera house, I often feel like I’m trapped between heaven and hell,” Gelb said. “Tonight I feel closer to heaven.”

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at or on Twitter at @amandagordon.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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