Metropolitan Opera Radio and Live in HD Broadcast: Faust
Transmission of Saturday, December 10, 1:00 P.M.
Sets by Robert Brill for the Faust prologue
© Catherine Ashmore 2011
The 2011–12 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by
Toll Brothers, America’s luxury home builder®,
with generous long-term support from
The Annenberg Foundation and
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.
Music by Charles Gounod
Text by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré
THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Faust tenor, JONAS KAUFMANN
Méphistophélès bass, RENÉ PAPE
Wagner baritone, JONATHAN BEYER
Valentin baritone, RUSSELL BRAUN
Siébel mezzo, MICHÈLE LOSIER
Marguerite sop., MARINA POPLAVSKAYA
Marthe mezzo, WENDY WHITE
Conducted by YANNICK NÉZET-SÉGUIN
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
Production: Des McAnuff
Set designer: Robert Brill
Costume designer: Paul Tazewell
Lighting designer: Peter Mumford
Video designer: Sean Nieuwenhuis
Choreographer: Kelly Devine
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Robert Morrison,
Howard Watkins, Pierre Vallet,
Carrie-Ann Matheson, Carol Isaac
Assistant stage directors: Jonathon Loy,
Sarah Ina Meyers
Fight director: Steve Rankin
Prompter: Carrie-Ann Matheson
Illusionist: Scott Penrose
Production a gift of Mercedes and Sid Bass,
and the Betsy and Edward Cohen/
Areté Foundation Fund for
New Productions and Revivals
Additional funding from the Gramma Fisher
Foundation, Marshalltown, Iowa;
the Richard J. Massey Foundation
for the Arts and Sciences;
and the Metropolitan Opera Club
|Coproduction of the Metropolitan Opera and
English National Opera
THE SCENES Timings (ET)
ACT I A village square 1:00–2:01
ACT II Marguerite’s house 2:35–3:25
ACT III 3:57–
Sc. 1 The church
Sc. 2 A village square
Sc. 3 Marguerite’s house
Sc. 4 A village square
Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
Directed for Live Cinema by
Barbara Willis Sweete
HD host: Joyce DiDonato
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This performance is also being broadcast
live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
SiriusXM channel 74.
ACT I. Alone in his study, the aged Dr. Faust broods that his lifelong search for the meaning of existence has been useless. He raises a goblet of poison to his lips but hesitates when he hears young people outside his window, awakening all the unfulfilled passions of his youth. Cursing life, the philosopher calls on the devil. Méphistophélès appears, and when Faust tells him he craves youth and pleasure, he replies that this can be arranged if Faust will forfeit his soul. Faust hesitates until Méphistophélès produces a vision of the beautiful Marguerite. A magic potion transforms Faust into a handsome youth, and he leaves with Méphistophélès in search of Marguerite and pleasure.
ACT II. Soldiers and townspeople celebrate the local fair. A young officer, Valentin, asks his friend Siébel to protect his sister Marguerite when he leaves for the wars, then prays to God for his sister's well-being. Wagner, a student, begins a lively song but is interrupted by Méphistophélès, who sings an homage to greed and gluttony. He astounds the crowd by creating a fountain of quality wine. When he proposes a toast to Marguerite, Valentin draws his sword, but it shatters. Recognizing Satan, the soldiers hold their sword hilts as crosses before Méphistophélès, who leaves in disgust. The townspeople return to their dance. Faust manages to meet Marguerite just before she is lost in the crowd of dancers.
ACT III. Siébel, watched by Faust and Méphistophélès, leaves a humble bunch of flowers at the door of Marguerite's home, then leaves. Faust is enchanted with the small, simple house. Méphistophélès returns with a box of jewels that he places near Siébel's flowers. When Marguerite arrives in the garden, she sings a ballad about the king of Thule, trying to forget about the handsome stranger she met at the fair. She is touched by Siébel's simple flowers but is amazed by the box of jewels. Unable to resist the temptation, she tries on all the jewels. Méphistophélès flirts with Marthe, the nosy elderly neighbor, so that Faust and Marguerite can be alone. Méphistophélès calls forth a night of stars to help in Faust's seduction. Marguerite confesses her love for Faust and goes into the house. Méphistophélès mocks Faust and points to Marguerite, now in her window, still enraptured by the night of love. Faust enters the house, as Méphistophélès laughs contemptuously.
ACT IV. Marguerite, pregnant and abandoned by Faust, seeks refuge in a church. Méphistophélès torments her with threats of damnation. She collapses.
Soldiers returning from the war gather in the town square. Valentin questions Siébel about Marguerite but receives only vague answers. Faust, repenting his abandonment of Marguerite, arrives with Méphistophélès, who serenades the girl with a lewd ballad. Valentin comes out of the house and challenges Faust to a duel. At a crucial moment, Méphistophélès intervenes, and Valentin is fatally wounded. Marguerite kneels by her brother, but he curses her with his last breath.
ACT V. Marguerite lies sleeping on the floor of her prison cell, where she has been confined for the murder of her illegitimate child. Faust and Méphistophélès appear in the cell to help her escape. At first she is delighted to see her lover and recalls their days of happiness together. But she refuses to move, and Faust realizes her mind has darkened. Méphistophélès steps forward to urge the couple to hurry, but Marguerite recognizes his true nature and calls on the angels to save her as she dies. Méphistophélès claims her soul but is overruled by a choir of angels who announce her salvation.
Sets by Robert Brill for Faust's Act II, scene 1
© Catherine Ashmore 2011
In the mid-nineteenth century, when the French stage was dominated by foreign music, Parisian composer Charles François Gounod (1818–93) brought a characteristically Gallic gift for melody to opera. Though he undertook the medium reluctantly and enjoyed few real successes outside of Faust, this work remains the high-water mark of French Romanticism.
Gounod's father had been a painter and winner of the second Prix de Rome, an honor the young man himself won in 1839. The composer's mother, familiar with the hardships of an artistic life, at first taught her son the piano under protest. Always "hovering between mysticism and voluptuousness," Gounod studied theology for two years and abstained from holy orders only when convinced he could have a music career. Most of his later works are ecclesiastical.
Traveling in Germany and Austria on his way back from Rome, young Gounod was impressed by Schumann and encouraged by Mendelssohn. His choice of the German play Faust as subject reflects his admiration for the poetry of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832). Gounod and his librettists have been criticized for limiting themselves to the romance of Faust and Marguerite. This love story was Goethe's addition to a legend that had started with one Dr. Johann Faustus, a native of Württemburg. The earliest known account of Faust, by Johann Spies, was published in Frankfurt in 1587.
Gounod's Faust opened at the Théâtre Lyrique, Paris, on March 19, 1859, after such difficulties in preparation that the composer considered singing the title role himself. Marie Caroline Miolan-Carvalho (1827–95), who also created Gounod's Mireille (1864) and his Juliette (1867), was the first Marguerite. Within a decade, Gounod had added to his score sung recitatives, Valentin's aria and, for the Opéra de Paris, a ballet.
The U.S. first heard Faust — in Italian — in Philadelphia, on November 18, 1863. Two decades later, on October 22, 1883, it appeared in Italian to inaugurate the Metropolitan Opera House. Swedish soprano Christine Nilsson was the Met's first Marguerite, opposite the Faust of Italian tenor Italo Campanini. Franco Novara was the company's first Méphistophélès.
Jonas Kaufmann, in costume as Faust for the Met's new
© Nick Heavican/Metropolitan Opera 2011
After a season's absence from the Met — during which the company began the practice of presenting its entire repertory in German — Faust returned, in German, with Wagnerians Lilli Lehmann, Albert Stritt and Emil Fischer in the principal roles. Met Faust performances reverted to Italian later in the decade and remained in that language in the early 1890s. When the Met opened its 1893–94 season with a new Faust production, the performance was sung in the original French, with Emma Eames and the brothers Jean and Édouard de Reszke as its stars.
has remained a regular feature in the Met's repertory for more than a century, with a tally of 733 company performances as of the end of the 2006–07 season.
The company's new Faust, directed by Des McAnuff, is a coproduction with English National Opera, which presented the premiere on September 19, 2010, at the Coliseum in London. The first Met performance was on November 29, 2011, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting Marina Poplavskaya, Jonas Kaufmann and René Pape.
WHAT TO READ AND HEAR
Currently out of print, but worth looking for, is Steve Huebner's Operas of Charles Gounod (Oxford). The two halves of Goethe's Faust are available in separate paperback editions from Oxford; Norton's critical edition of Faust includes both books in a single volume, along with useful commentary.
Carlo Rizzi's 1993 recording (Teldec) is strongly cast, with Jerry Hadley, Cecila Gasdia and Samuel Ramey. The best of Michel Plasson's principals (EMI, 1991) are José van Dam, an aristocratic Méphistophélès, and Thomas Hampson, a keen Valentin. Two earlier EMI recordings star uncommonly sympathetic Marguerites: Mirella Freni, on George Prêtre's 1978 Faust, and Victoria de los Angeles, heroine of André Cluyten's 1958 recording. Nicolai Ghiaurov's inky-voiced Méphistophélès and Franco Corelli's clarion Faust bestir Joan Sutherland's Marguerite on Richard Bonynge's 1966 Faust (Decca). The fifth volume of Naxos's complete Caruso recordings has some vigorous Faust excerpts of 1909–10 vintage, featuring the tenor with his Metropolitan Opera colleagues Geraldine Farrar, Marcel Journet and Antonio Scotti.
There are few options on DVD for Faust lovers. A 1985 production from Wiener Staatsoper, staged by film director Ken Russell, is notable for Gabriela Benacková's beautiful Marguerite and Ruggero Raimondi's robustly Italianate Méphistophélès (DG). The elegant philosopher of Alfredo Kraus, long considered one of opera's most stylish singers, is available in a 1973 Faust from Tokyo (VAI), co-starring Renata Scotto (Marguerite) and Nicolai Ghiaurov (Méphistophélès). Still the most vivid of the many Faust-themed movies is the 1926 silent film by F. W. Murnau (Kino Video), starring the exquisite Camilla Horn as Marguerite and Emil Jannings as a charismatic, truly creepy devil.
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