Preview – Faust at The Metropolitan Opera (04/02)

Venue: Metropolitan Opera, Manhattan, NY

Performers: Composer: Charles Gounod, Librettist: Jules Barber and Michel Carre, Conductor: Alain Altinoglu, Faust: Piotr Beczala, Marguerite: Marina Poplavskaya, Valentin: Alexey Markov, Mephistopgeles: John Relyea.

Gounod in his autobiography says, “In a word, Morality (or the definition of what is good), Science (or the definition of what is true), Art (or the definition of what is beautiful) well all lacking until the advent of Man.” (Gounod, 226). I wish before i went to see the opera i had read about Gounod’s history. In his autobiography I see that he found balance of life very important. As a child he would try to run away from doing chores in order to do what he loved, compositions. However, in his autobiography you can see that although he loved composing, he also took time to dedicate his time to other things, such as religion.
Faust is about a scientist that regrets his life when he is old because he feels like he didn’t do much with it. Gounod says that “Morality, Art, and Science were developed to become better by man.” (Gounod, 226) However, in Faust, Faust is regretful because even though he dedicated his time to something that was important to the success of man, he lacked morality and the experience of beauty. You can see how he lacks morality when he made a pact with the devil to become young again. In this opera i believe Charles wanted to show audiences how taking essence of different aspects of life is important to live a fulfilling life. He showed through Faust how concentrating only one aspect of your life and ignoring others can lead to being regretful. Faust after making a deal with the devil shows no improvement in quality of life because he lost the woman he loved and he is still unhappy. Gounod through his music moved the crowd to feeling how he wanted us to feel. When he wanted us to feel sad he used slow, low pitched notes, and when he wanted us to feel slightly cheerful he used faster notes, and added woodwinds.
Faust was written in the 19th century and the setting of it took place in the 16th century. In the 19th century the theory of evolution was introduced. In this century, people turned to reason rather than faith because science began explaining how things in life worked. In making these discoveries, people began believing more in reason and science, rather than religion. Knowing this, I wonder if Gounod composed this play in a way to enlighten people on the importance of embracing all aspects of life, not just one like Faust did.
I believe this piece sets it aside to others because the central message continues to be relevant. I believe that his central message was to not only engage in one aspect of life, and explore all opportunities while you have the chance. In the beginning of Faust, he shows how it regretful not taking advantage of life can be. This opera was extremely moving through the music, and the themes.
Souces: Gounod, Charles. Charles Gounod; Autobiographical Reminiscences. New York: Da Capo., 1970.