Opera in five acts with music composed by Charles Gounod
- Conductor: Alain Altinoglu
- Faust, a scientist: Piotr Beczala (Tenor)
- Mephistopheles: John Relyea (Bass-Baritone)
- Wagner: Richard Bernstein (Bass)
- Valentin, a soldier, Marguerite’s brother: Alexey Markov (Baritone)
- Siebel, one of Faust’s students: Julie Boulianne (Mezzo-Soprano)
- Marguerite: Marina Poplavskaya (Soprano)
- Marthe, Marguerite’s friend: Catherine Cook (Mezzo-Soprano)
The Venue: The Metropolitan Opera
A video clip from scene V – Walpurgis Night
Charles Gounod was a French composer. Huebner stated that “throughout the 19th century, until the creation of societe nationale and the rise to prominence of concert organizations after 1870, the primary way for a young French composer to make a name for himself was by composing operas.”(21) Charles Gounod rose to fame due to the talent and passion he possessed for his music. There was a contest called the Prix de Rome, which is a contest that grants the winner to study at the French Academy for free; only the best win the contest and Charles Gounod was one of them.
Faust is an opera that Charles Gounod wanted to compose. “It was he that proposed ‘Faust’ as an operatic subject to the librettists”(R.Martin and T. Martin iii). I find it interesting that the libretto from 1966 only contains four acts opposed to the program book of the recent performance of Faust that has five acts.
Also, the opera that I saw was performed in French. Originally Faust was performed in German and then translated to Italian when it became the first opera to be performed at the New York Metropolitan opera in 1883(R.Martin and T.Martin iii). I believe that I would have been more excited watching Faust had I known that it was the opening performance for the Metropolitan opera. It is also enjoyable to know that Faust was translated to French assuming the reason was because Gounod was French. I enjoyed the opera; however, I found it difficult to completely enjoy the art since my eyes were halfway stuck on the closed captions on the seat in front of me. I do not think that it is entirely important to know the history behind the art but it definitely adds to the magic to know beforehand.
I was a bit surprised when finding out that the opera played into the idea that humans could sign their souls over to the devil for something in return. Even growing up as a child I remember cartoons and movies that would reenact the deal with the devil. It was surprising that some of the same ideas are still being recreated centuries later.
Gounod, Charles, Jules Barbier, Michel Carré, Ruth Martin, and Thomas Martin. Faust: Opera in 4 Acts. New York: G. Schirmer, 1966. Print.
Huebner, Steven. The Operas of Charles Gounod. Oxford [England]; New York : Oxford University Press: Clarendon, 1990. Print.