Faust (opera)

Last updated
Faust
Opera by Charles Gounod
Faust by Gounod Act3 1859 engraving by Lamy NGO2p134.jpg
Marguerite's garden in the original production, set design by Édouard Desplechin
Librettist
Based onFaust et Marguerite
by Carré
Premiere
19 March 1859 (1859-03-19)

Faust is an opera in five acts by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from Carré's play Faust et Marguerite, in turn loosely based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, Part One . It debuted at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris on 19 March 1859, with influential sets designed by Charles-Antoine Cambon and Joseph Thierry, Jean Émile Daran, Édouard Desplechin, and Philippe Chaperon.

Charles Gounod French composer

Charles-François Gounod was a French composer, best known for his Ave Maria, based on a work by Bach, as well as his opera Faust. Another opera by Gounod still performed is Roméo et Juliette.

Libretto text used for an extended musical work

A libretto is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.

Jules Barbier French writer

Paul Jules Barbier was a French poet, writer and opera librettist who often wrote in collaboration with Michel Carré. He was a noted Parisian bon vivant and man of letters.

Contents

Performance history

Miolan-Carvalho as Marguerite (1860) Caroline Carvalho as Marguerite in Faust by Gounod 1860 - Gallica.jpg
Miolan-Carvalho as Marguerite (1860)

The original version of Faust employed spoken dialogue, and it was in this form that the work was first performed. The manager of the Théâtre Lyrique, Léon Carvalho cast his wife Marie Miolan-Carvalho as Marguerite and there were various changes during production, including the removal and contraction of several numbers. [1] The tenor Hector Gruyer was originally cast as Faust but was found to be inadequate during rehearsals, being eventually replaced by a principal of the Opéra-Comique, Joseph-Théodore-Désiré Barbot, shortly before the opening night. [1]

Faust Protagonist of a classic German legend

Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend, based on the historical Johann Georg Faust.

Léon Carvalho French opera singer

Léon Carvalho was a French impresario and stage director.

Marie Caroline Miolan-Carvalho French operatic soprano

Marie Caroline Miolan-Carvalho was a famed French operatic soprano, particularly associated with light lyric and coloratura roles.

After a successful initial run at the Théâtre Lyrique the publisher Antoine Choudens, who purchased the copyright for 10,000 francs, took the work (now with recitatives replacing the spoken dialogue) on tour through Germany, Belgium, Italy and England, with Marie Miolan-Carvalho repeating her role. [1]

Performances in Germany followed, with Dresden Semperoper in 1861 being the first to bill the work as Margarethe rather than Faust. For many years this custom - or alternatively, staging the opera as Gretchen - continued in Germany. Some sources claim this was out of respect for Part I of Goethe's poetic drama, which the opera follows closely. [1] Others claim the opposite: that the retitling was done to emphasise Gounod's opera's reliance on Goethe's characters, and to differentiate it from Louis Spohr's Faust , which had held the stage for many years in Germany and had recently appeared (1851) in a three-act revision. It is also possible that the 1861 Dresden title change was out of respect for Spohr's close and long association with the city. [2]

Semperoper Opera house and concert hall in Dresden, Saxony, Germany

The Semperoper is the opera house of the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden and the concert hall of the Staatskapelle Dresden. It is also home to the Semperoper Ballett. The building is located near the Elbe River in the historic centre of Dresden, Germany.

Louis Spohr German composer, violinist and conductor

Louis Spohr, baptized Ludewig Spohr, later often in the modern German form of the name Ludwig, was a German composer, violinist and conductor. Highly regarded during his lifetime, Spohr composed ten symphonies, ten operas, eighteen violin concerti, four clarinet concerti, four oratorios, and various works for small ensemble, chamber music, and art songs. Spohr was the inventor of both the violin chinrest and the orchestral rehearsal mark. His output occupies a pivotal position between Classicism and Romanticism, but fell into obscurity following his death, when his music was rarely heard. The late 20th century saw a revival of interest in his oeuvre, especially in Europe.

<i>Faust</i> (Spohr) opera by the German composer Louis Spohr

Faust is an opera by the German composer Louis Spohr. The libretto, by Josef Karl Bernard, is based on the legend of Faust; it is not influenced by Goethe's Faust, though Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy had been published in 1808. Instead, Bernard's libretto draws mainly on Faust plays and poems by Maximilian Klinger and Heinrich von Kleist. Spohr's Faust is an important work in the history of German Romantic opera.

The opera was given for the first time in Italy at La Scala in 1862 and in England at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London (in Italian) in 1863. In 1864, when the opera was given at the same venue in English, Gounod took a theme from the prelude to the opera and wrote a new aria for the star baritone Charles Santley in the role of Valentin, 'Even bravest heart may swell' (with words by Henry Chorley). This number was then translated into French for subsequent productions as ‘Avant de quitter ces lieux’ and has become one of the most familiar pieces from the opera. [1]

La Scala Opera house in Milan, Italy

La Scala is an opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala. The premiere performance was Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.

Charles Santley British opera singer

Sir Charles Santley was an English-born opera and oratorio star with a bravura technique who became the most eminent English baritone and male concert singer of the Victorian era. His has been called 'the longest, most distinguished and most versatile vocal career which history records.'

Henry Chorley English literary, art and music critic and editor

Henry Fothergill Chorley was an English literary, art and music critic, writer and editor. He was also an author of novels, drama, poetry and lyrics.

In 1869 a ballet had to be inserted (into the first scene of the final act) before the work could be played at the Opéra: it became the most frequently performed opera at that house. [1] With the change from spoken dialogue to sung recitatives, plus the musical and balletic additions, the opera was thus finally transformed into a work following the conventions of grand opera. [3]

Ballet form of performance dance

Ballet is a type of performance dance that originated during the Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth century and later developed into a concert dance form in France and Russia. It has since become a widespread, highly technical form of dance with its own vocabulary based on French terminology. It has been globally influential and has defined the foundational techniques used in many other dance genres and cultures. Ballet has been taught in various schools around the world, which have historically incorporated their own cultures and as a result, the art has evolved in a number of distinct ways. See glossary of ballet.

Paris Opera the primary opera company of France

The Paris Opera is the primary opera and ballet company of France. It was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV as the Académie d'Opéra, and shortly thereafter was placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully and officially renamed the Académie Royale de Musique, but continued to be known more simply as the Opéra. Classical ballet as it is known today arose within the Paris Opera as the Paris Opera Ballet and has remained an integral and important part of the company. Currently called the Opéra National de Paris, it mainly produces operas at its modern 2700-seat theatre Opéra Bastille which opened in 1989, and ballets and some classical operas at the older 1970-seat Palais Garnier which opened in 1875. Small scale and contemporary works are also staged in the 500-seat Amphitheatre under the Opéra Bastille.

Grand opera opera genre

Grand opera is a genre of 19th-century opera generally in four or five acts, characterized by large-scale casts and orchestras, and lavish and spectacular design and stage effects, normally with plots based on or around dramatic historic events. The term is particularly applied to certain productions of the Paris Opéra from the late 1820s to around 1850; 'grand opéra' has sometimes been used to denote the Paris Opéra itself.

Although the opera is still frequently performed, [4] it no longer regularly sits in the "top twenty" performed worldwide. [5]

It was Faust with which the Metropolitan Opera in New York City opened for the first time on 22 October 1883. It is the eighth most frequently performed opera there, with 753 performances through the 2012-2013 season. It was not until the period between 1965 and 1977 that the full version was performed (and then with some minor cuts), and all performances in that production included the Walpurgisnacht ballet. [6]

Roles

The vision of Marguerite as staged at Covent Garden in 1864 with Jean-Baptiste Faure as Mephistopheles and Giovanni Mario as Faust Faust by Gounod Act1 1864 Covent Garden lithograph NGO2p132.jpg
The vision of Marguerite as staged at Covent Garden in 1864 with Jean-Baptiste Faure as Méphistophélès and Giovanni Mario as Faust
Role Voice type Premiere cast, 19 March 1859
(Conductor: Adolphe Deloffre) [7]
Faust, a philosopher and metaphysician tenor Joseph-Théodore-Désiré Barbot
Méphistophélès, a familiar spirit of hell bass-baritone Émile Balanqué
Marguerite, a young maiden soprano Marie Caroline Miolan-Carvalho
Valentin, a soldier, Marguerite's brother baritone Osmond Raynal
Wagner, friend of ValentinbaritoneM. Cibot
Siébel, a youth, in love with Marguerite mezzo-soprano or soprano
(breeches role)
Amélie Faivre
Marthe Schwertlein, Marguerite's guardianmezzo-soprano or contralto Duclos
Young girls, labourers, students, soldiers, burghers, matrons, invisible demons,
church choir, witches, queens and courtesans of antiquity, celestial voices

Synopsis

Place: Germany
Time: 16th century

Act 1

Faust's cabinet

Faust, an aging scholar, determines that his studies have come to nothing and have only caused him to miss out on life and love (Rien! En vain j'interroge). He attempts to kill himself (twice) with poison but stops each time when he hears a choir. He curses hope and faith, and asks for infernal guidance. Méphistophélès appears (duet: Me voici) and, with a tempting image of Marguerite at her spinning wheel, persuades Faust to buy Méphistophélès's services on earth in exchange for Faust's in Hell. Faust's goblet of poison is magically transformed into an elixir of youth, making the aged doctor a handsome young gentleman; the strange companions then set out into the world.

Act 2

At the city gates

A chorus of students, soldiers and villagers sings a drinking song (Vin ou Bière). Valentin, leaving for war with his friend Wagner, entrusts the care of his sister Marguerite to his youthful friend Siébel (O sainte médaille ... Avant de quitter ces lieux). Méphistophélès appears, provides the crowd with wine, and sings a rousing, irreverent song about the Golden Calf (Le veau d'or). Méphistophélès maligns Marguerite, and Valentin tries to strike him with his sword, which shatters in the air. Valentin and friends use the cross-shaped hilts of their swords to fend off what they now know is an infernal power (chorus: De l'enfer). Méphistophélès is joined by Faust and the villagers in a waltz (Ainsi que la brise légère). Marguerite appears and Faust declares his admiration, but she refuses Faust's arm out of modesty, a quality that makes him love her even more.

Act 3

Feodor Chaliapin as Mephistopheles, 1915 Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii - Feodor Chaliapin as Mephisto.jpg
Feodor Chaliapin as Méphistophélès, 1915

Marguerite's garden

The lovesick boy Siébel leaves a bouquet for Marguerite (Faites-lui mes aveux). Faust sends Méphistophélès in search of a gift for Marguerite and sings a cavatina (Salut, demeure chaste et pure) idealizing Marguerite as a pure child of nature. Méphistophélès brings in a decorated box containing exquisite jewelry and a hand mirror and leaves it on Marguerite's doorstep, next to Siébel's flowers. Marguerite enters, pondering her encounter with Faust at the city gates, and sings a melancholy ballad about the King of Thule (Il était un roi de Thulé). Marthe, Marguerite's neighbour, notices the jewellery and says it must be from an admirer. Marguerite tries on the jewels and is captivated by how they enhance her beauty, as she sings in the famous aria, the Jewel Song (Ah! je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir). Méphistophélès and Faust join the women in the garden and romance them. Marguerite allows Faust to kiss her (Laisse-moi, laisse-moi contempler ton visage), but then asks him to go away. She sings at her window for his quick return, and Faust, listening, returns to her. Under the watchful eye and malevolent laughter of Méphistophélès, it is clear that Faust's seduction of Marguerite will be successful.

Act 4

Marguerite's room / A public square outside her house / A cathedral

[Note: The scenes of acts 4 and 5 are sometimes given in a different order and portions are sometimes shortened or cut in performance.] [8]

Marguerite prays in the cathedral, set design by Charles-Antoine Cambon Faust by Gounod Act 4 scene 3 design by Cambon - Essai sur l'histoire du theatre p553.jpg
Marguerite prays in the cathedral, set design by Charles-Antoine Cambon

After being made pregnant and seemingly abandoned by Faust, Marguerite has given birth and is a social outcast. She sings an aria at her spinning wheel (Il ne revient pas). Siébel stands by her. The scene shifts to the square outside Marguerite's house. Valentin's company returns from the war to a military march (Deposons les armes and Gloire immortelle de nos aïeux, the well-known "soldiers' chorus"). Siébel asks Valentin to forgive Marguerite. Valentin rushes to her cottage. While he is inside Faust and Méphistophélès appear, and Méphistophélès, knowing that Marguerite is not in there alone, sings a mocking burlesque of a lover's serenade under Marguerite's window (Vous qui faites l'endormie). Valentin takes the bait and comes out of the cottage, now knowing that Faust has debauched his sister. The two men fight, but Faust is reluctant to hurt the brother of the woman he adores. Méphistophélès blocks Valentin's sword, allowing Faust to make the fatal thrust. With his dying breath Valentin blames Marguerite for his death and condemns her to Hell before the assembled townspeople (Ecoute-moi bien Marguerite). Marguerite goes to the church and tries to pray there but is stopped, first by the sadistic Méphistophélès and then by a choir of devils. She finishes her prayer but faints when she is cursed again by Méphistophélès.

Act 5

The Harz mountains on Walpurgis Night / A cavern / The interior of a prison

Méphistophélès and Faust are surrounded by witches (Un, deux et trois). Faust is transported to a cave of queens and courtesans, and Méphistophélès promises to provide Faust with the love of the greatest and most beautiful women in history. An orgiastic ballet suggests the revelry that continues throughout the night. As dawn approaches, Faust sees a vision of Marguerite and calls for her. Méphistophélès helps Faust enter the prison where Marguerite is being held for killing her child. They sing a love duet (Oui, c'est toi que j'aime). Méphistophélès states that only a mortal hand can deliver Marguerite from her fate, and Faust offers to rescue her from the hangman, but she prefers to trust her fate to God and His angels (Anges purs, anges radieux). At the end she asks why Faust's hands are covered in blood, pushes him away, and falls down motionless. Méphistophélès curses, as a voice on high sings "Sauvée!" ("Saved!"). The bells of Easter sound and a chorus of angels sings "Christ est ressuscité!" ('"Christ is risen!"). The walls of the prison open, and Marguerite's soul rises to heaven. In despair Faust follows it with his eyes; he falls to his knees and prays. Méphistophélès is turned away by the shining sword of the archangel. [9] [1]

Ballet

Although the Walpurgisnacht ballet sequence from act 5 is often omitted from staged opera performances, it is frequently performed separately as part of a ballet program, e.g. George Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet . [10]

Recordings

Related Research Articles

<i>La damnation de Faust</i> opera

La damnation de Faust, Op. 24 is a work for four solo voices, full seven-part chorus, large children's chorus and orchestra by the French composer Hector Berlioz. He called it a "légende dramatique". It was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 6 December 1846.

<i>Roméo et Juliette</i> 1867 opera by Charles Gounod

Roméo et Juliette is an opera in five acts by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, based on Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. It was first performed at the Théâtre Lyrique, Paris on 27 April 1867. This opera is notable for the series of four duets for the main characters and the waltz song "Je veux vivre" for the soprano.

Michel Carré French librettist

Michel Carré was a prolific French librettist.

<i>Mireille</i> (opera) opera

Mireille is an 1864 opera in five acts by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Michel Carré after Frédéric Mistral's poem Mireio. The vocal score is dedicated to George V of Hanover.

<i>Doktor Faust</i> opera by Ferruccio Busoni

Doktor Faust is an opera by Ferruccio Busoni with a German libretto by the composer himself, based on the myth of Faust. Busoni worked on the opera, which he intended as his masterpiece, between 1916 and 1924, but it was still incomplete at the time of his death. His pupil Philipp Jarnach finished it. More recently, in 1982, Antony Beaumont completed the opera using sketches by Busoni which were previously thought to have been lost. Nancy Chamness has published an analysis of the libretto to Doktor Faust and a comparison with Goethe's version.

<i>Faust up to Date</i> musical

Faust up to Date is a musical burlesque with a score written by Meyer Lutz. The libretto was written by G. R. Sims and Henry Pettitt. It is a spoof of Gounod's opera, Faust, which had first been performed in London in 1864, and followed on from an earlier Lutz musical, Mephistopheles, or Faust and Marguerite.

<i>Sapho</i> (Gounod) opera by Charles Gounod

Sapho is a 3-act opera by Charles Gounod to a libretto by Émile Augier which was premiered by the Paris Opera at the Salle Le Peletier on 16 April 1851. It was presented only 9 times in its initial production, but was a succès d'estime for the young composer, with the critics praising Act 3 in particular. It was later revived in 2-act (1858) and 4-act (1884) versions, achieving a total of 48 performances.

<i>La colombe</i> opera

La Colombe is an opéra comique in two acts by Charles Gounod with a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré based on the poem Le Faucon by Jean de la Fontaine. It premiered in a one-act version at the Theater der Stadt in Baden-Baden on 3 August 1860, where it was well received and performed four times. It was revived on 7 June 1866 by the Opéra-Comique at the Salle Favart in Paris in an expanded two-act version with additional music by Gounod.

<i>Dinorah</i> opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer

Dinorah, originally Le pardon de Ploërmel, is an 1859 French opéra comique in three acts with music by Giacomo Meyerbeer and a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. The story takes place near the rural town of Ploërmel and is based on two Breton tales by Émile Souvestre, "La Chasse aux trésors" and "Le Kacouss de l'Armor", both published separately in 1850 in the Revue des deux mondes.

Théâtre Lyrique former opera company in Paris

The Théâtre Lyrique was one of four opera companies performing in Paris during the middle of the 19th century. The company was founded in 1847 as the Opéra-National by the French composer Adolphe Adam and renamed Théâtre Lyrique in 1852. It used four different theatres in succession, the Cirque Olympique, the Théâtre Historique, the Salle du Théâtre-Lyrique, and the Salle de l'Athénée, until it ceased operations in 1872.

<i>Ivan IV</i> (opera) opera

Ivan IV is an opera in five acts by Georges Bizet, with a libretto by Francois-Hippolyte Leroy and Henri Trianon.

<i>Le timbre dargent</i> opéra fantastique in four acts by composer Camille Saint-Saëns to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré

Le timbre d'argent is an opéra fantastique in four acts by composer Camille Saint-Saëns to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. Although completed in 1865, the opera did not receive its premiere performance until 23 February 1877, when it was presented by Albert Vizentini's Théâtre National Lyrique at the Théâtre de la Gaîté in Paris. It includes the well-known aria "Le bonheur est chose légère."

Walpurgisnacht Ballet is a ballet made by New York City Ballet's co-founder and founding choreographer George Balanchine for a 1975 production of Gounod's 1859 Faust at the Théâtre National de l'Opéra, Paris, including Gounod's additional ballet music from 1869. The New York City Ballet premiere was the first presentation of the dance as an independent work, on Thursday, 15 May 1980 at the New York State Theater, Lincoln Center. Balanchine had previously made dances for productions of Faust at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, danced by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; in 1935 for the Metropolitan Opera; and 1945 for the Opera Nacional, Mexico City.

Ernest Boulanger (composer) French composer

Ernest Henri Alexandre Boulanger was a French composer of comic operas and a conductor. He was more known, however, for being a choral music composer, choral group director, voice teacher, and vocal contest jury member.

<i>Faust and Marguerite</i> (1900 film) 1900 film by Edwin Stanton Porter

Faust and Marguerite is a 1900 American silent film produced and distributed by Edison Manufacturing Company. It was directed by Edwin S. Porter and based on the Michel Carré play Faust et Marguerite and the 1859 opera Faust adapted from the play by Charles Gounod.

<i>Valentine dAubigny</i> opera

Valentine d'Aubigny is an opéra comique in three acts composed by Fromental Halévy to a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. It premiered in Paris on 26 April 1856 at the Théâtre de l'Opéra-Comique. The comic story is set in Fontainebleau and Paris at the beginning of the 18th century and revolves around mistaken identities and the machinations of the Chevalier de Boisrobert and Sylvia, an actress at the Théâtre-Italien, who try but ultimately fail to prevent the marriage of Gilbert de Mauléon and Valentine d'Aubigny.

Damnation du docteur Faust, released in the United States as Faust and Marguerite and in the United Kingdom as Faust, is a 1904 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès.

<i>Le petit Faust</i> opera

Le petit Faust is an opéra bouffe in four acts which burlesques the drama Faust by Goethe and the opera of the same name by Gounod. The music of the piece is by Hervé, with a text by Hector-Jonathan Crémieux and Adolphe Jaime. The work had its premiere in Paris at the Théâtre des Folies-Dramatiques on 23 April 1869.

References

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Huebner, Stephen. "Faust(ii)". In Deane L. Root (ed.). Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online . Oxford University Press.(subscription required)
  2. Boder, Wolfram Die Kasseler Opern Louis Spohrs, Musikdramaturgie im sozialen Kontext (Kassel 2006)
  3. Schwarm, Betsy. "Faust". britannica.com.
  4. "Performances, faust by city". operabase.com. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  5. "statistics 2004-2017, top twenty operas". operabase.com. Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  6. The Met database (archives)
  7. Kaminski, Piotr (2003). Mille et un opéras. Fayard. p. 1800. ISBN   978-2213600178.
  8. The description given here follows the order of the scenes as performed in the original production at the Théâtre Lyrique (Walsh 1981, p. 100) and as described in the plot summaries written by Steven Huebner (1992, pp. 133134; 2001, p. 337).
  9. Barbier & Carré 1859, p. 72.
  10. Martin, John (24 August 1947). "New Works for Ballet Russe". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 September 2018.

Sources