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Opera Essentials: Faust

A quick guide to Gounod's popular grand opera.

By Kate Hopkins (Opera and Music Publications Officer)

28 March 2014 at 2.41pm | 1 Comment

The Story Begins…
Weary of life, aged philosopher Faust decides to commit suicide. The devil Méphistophélès appears and offers him riches, youth, good looks and the love of a beautiful woman. All he asks for is Faust's soul in return.

Parallels Between Life and Art
David McVicar’s production, set in Paris in the 1870s, celebrates the city and draws parallels between the experiences of Faust and those of Gounod, who was always torn between religion and sensuality. Highlights include Charles Edwards’s brilliant re-creations of the Cabaret d’Enfer and the church of Saint-Séverin, sumptuous period costumes and an absinthe-fuelled demonic ballet in Act V.

Melodious and Dramatic
Faust is packed with instantly memorable tunes (such as the Soldiers’ Chorus in Act IV) and with wonderful showpieces for the principal singers, including Faust’s heart-melting ‘Salut, demeure, chaste et pure’ and Marguerite’s brilliant Jewel Song, one of the most famous soprano arias in all opera. Faust also contains powerful dramatic ensembles, including the final scene in Act V, as Marguerite struggles to escape the temptations offered by Faust and Méphistophélès.

A Hugely Popular Story
The libretto of Faust has its origins in Part I of Goethe’s great dramatic poem Faust, a work that inspired many other composers including Schumann, Boito and Mahler. Gounod avoids the philosophical concerns of Part II of Goethe’s drama, concentrating almost entirely on the romantic relationship between Faust and Marguerite and its tragic outcome.

Worldwide Popularity
Faust was one of the most popular of all operas for more than fifty years after its premiere: it was staged at Covent Garden every Season, and also featured prominently in the programmes of the Paris Opéra and the Metropolitan Opera, New York. In recent years the opera has regained some of its former popularity – The Royal Opera’s current production has been revived four times in ten years.

Faust runs from 4–25 April 2014. Tickets are still available.
The production is a co-production with Opéra de Monte Carlo, Opéra de Lille and Fondazione Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, Trieste, and is given with generous philanthropic support from David Hancock, Spindrift Al Swaidi, Martin and Jane Houston, Mr and Mrs Christopher W.T. Johnston, The Tsukanov Family Foundation, The Connoisseurs’ Series and The Friends of Covent Garden.

This article has 1 comment

  1. Alice Poulsen responded on 29 March 2014 at 8:46pm Reply

    I totally LOVE this opera and this production - saw it last time around too and cannot wait to see it again. Especially with this amazing cast.

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