DRAMATIC LEGEND IN FOUR ACTS
LIBRETTO BY HECTOR BERLIOZ AND ALMIRE GANDONNIÈRE AFTER GOETHE’S DRAMATIC POEM «FAUST»
MUSICAL DIRECTOR AND CONDUCTOR Tugan Sokhiev
DIRECTOR Peter Stein
SET DESIGNER Ferdinand Woegerbauer
COSTUME DESIGNER Nana Cecchi
LIGHTING DESIGNER Joachim Bart
CHIEF CHORUS MASTER Valery Borisov
La damnation de Faust (English: The Damnation of 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 "legende dramatique" (dramatic legend). It was first performed at the Opera-Comique in Paris on 6 December 1846.
scholar Faust contemplates the renewal of nature. Hearing peasants sing and
dance, he realizes that their simple happiness is something he will never
experience. An army marches past in the distance (Hungarian March). Faust
doesn't understand why the soldiers are so enthusiastic about glory and
Depressed, Faust has returned to his
study. Even the search for wisdom can no longer inspire him. Tired of life, he
is about to commit suicide when the sound of church bells and an Easter hymn
remind him of his youth, when he still had faith in religion. Suddenly
Méphistophélès appears, ironically commenting on Faust's apparent conversion. He
offers to take him on a journey, promising him the restoration of his youth,
knowledge, and the fulfillment of all his wishes. Faust accepts.
Méphistophélès and Faust arrive at Auerbach's tavern in Leipzig,
where Brander, a student, sings a song about a rat whose high life in a kitchen
is ended by a dose of poison. The other guests offer an ironic "Amen," and
Méphistophélès continues with another song about a flea that brings his
relatives to infest a whole royal court (Song of the Flea). Disgusted by the
vulgarity of it all, Faust demands to be taken somewhere else.
On a meadow by the Elbe, Méphistophélès shows Faust a dream
vision of a beautiful woman named Marguerite, causing Faust to fall in love with
her. He calls out her name, and Méphistophélès promises to lead Faust to her.
Together with a group of students and soldiers, they enter the town where she
Faust and Méphistophélès hide in
Marguerite's room. Faust feels that he will find in her his ideal of a pure and
innocent woman ("Merci, doux crépuscule!"). Marguerite enters and sings a ballad
about the King of Thule, who always remained sadly faithful to his lost love
("Autrefois, un roi de Thulé"). Méphistophélès summons spirits to enchant and
deceive the girl and sings a sarcastic serenade outside her window, predicting
her loss of innocence. When the spirits have vanished, Faust steps forward.
Marguerite admits that she has dreamed of him, just as he has dreamed of her,
and they declare their love for each other. Just then, Méphistophélès bursts in,
warning them that the girl's reputation must be saved: the neighbors have
learned that there is a man in Marguerite's room and have called her mother to
the scene. After a hasty goodbye, Faust and Méphistophélès escape.
Faust has seduced, then abandoned
Marguerite, who still awaits his return ("D'amour l'ardente flamme"). She can
hear soldiers and students in the distance, which reminds her of the night Faust
first came to her house. But this time he is not among them.
Faust calls upon nature to cure him of his world-weariness
("Nature immense, impénétrable et fière"). Méphistophélès appears and tells him
that Marguerite is in prison. She has accidentally given her mother too much of
a sleeping potion, killing the old woman, and will be hanged the next day. Faust
panics, but Méphistophélès claims he can save her—if Faust relinquishes his soul
to him. Unable to think of anything but saving Marguerite, Faust agrees. The two
ride off on a pair of black horses.
Thinking they are on their way to Marguerite, Faust becomes
terrified when he sees demonic apparitions. The landscape becomes more and more
horrible and grotesque, and Faust finally realizes that Méphistophélès has taken
him directly into hell. Demons and damned spirits greet Méphistophélès in a
mysterious infernal language and welcome Faust among them.
Hell has fallen silent after Faust's arrival—the torment he
suffers is unspeakable. Marguerite is saved and welcomed into heaven.