Faust, Opera by C. Gounod
Faust by the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is known worldwide as a masterpiece of philosophical and literary virtues. French composer Charles Gounod was inspired by the monumental epos, but he was wise enough not to attempt to stage it in its full metaphysical glory. Instead, he focused on the love story that runs through the original text. The wonderful opera that resulted from this choice has been a regular on different stages across the world, and Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice offers a remarkable version of Gounod’s Faust this season.
The opera in five acts is based on the French play Faust et Marguerite by Michel Carré, who also produced the libretto in collaboration with Jules Barbier. Faust premiered on the stage of Théâtre Lyrique in Paris on 19 March 1859 where it became an instant success. In the following years, Faust travelled to world stages, including Germany (where it was billed as Margarethe or sometimes Gretchen for many years), Great Britain and the United States. In the course of the 1860s, Gounod made several changes to the original, replacing the spoken-word dialogue with recitatives and adding a ballet to the final act. Thus, Faust became a proper grand opera and, as a member of this beloved genre, still enjoys popularity today.
The plot starts out with the famous deal between the ageing philosopher Faust and Méphistophélès, the demon from hell. In exchange for youth, power and the love of Marguerite, the evil spirit shall have the man’s soul. Thanks to his handsomer and more youthful appearance and with Méphistophélès’ timely help, Faust manages to seduce Marguerite. Her brother Valentin and his friend Siébel try to avenge the dishonour, but they are powerless against the demon’s crooked devices. As Faust is swept into a whirlpool of depravity by Méphistophélès, Marguerite suffers the consequences of her tryst with him. Garnered with Gounod’s inspired score, this opera tells a gripping story of life, love and death.