Goethe - Faust

Faust, two-part dramatic work by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Part I was published in 1808 and Part II in 1832, after the author’s death. The supreme work of Goethe’s later years, Faust is sometimes considered Germany’s greatest contribution to world literature.

Part I sets out the magician Faust’s despair, his pact with Mephistopheles, and his love for Gretchen.
Part II covers Faust’s life at court, the wooing and winning of Helen of Troy, and his purification and salvation.

In earlier eras the play was often decried as formless because of its array of lyric, epic, dramatic, operatic, and balletic elements. It includes almost every known poetic metre, from doggerel through terza rima to six-foot trimetre (a line of verse consisting of three measures), and a number of styles ranging from Greek tragedy through medieval mystery, baroque allegory, Renaissance masque, and commedia dell’arte to something akin to the modern revue. To modern critics, however, this mixture of forms and styles suggested a deliberate attempt to create a vehicle of cultural comment rather than an inability to create a coherent form of his own, and the content with which Goethe invested his forms bears out the modern interpretation. He drew on an immense variety of cultural material—theological, mythological, philosophical, political, economic, scientific, aesthetic, musical, literary—for the more realistic Part I no less than for the more symbolic Part II.

 

Faust

Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend, based on the historical Johann Georg Faust (c. 1480–1540).
 

Faust is a charlatan who is highly successful yet dissatisfied with his life, which leads him to make a pact with the Devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. The Faust legend has been the basis for many literary, artistic, cinematic, and musical works that have reinterpreted it through the ages. "Faust" and the adjective "Faustian" imply a situation in which an ambitious person surrenders moral integrity in order to achieve power and success for a delimited term.
 

The Faust of early books—as well as the ballads, dramas, movies, and puppet-plays which grew out of them—is irrevocably damned because he prefers human to divine knowledge; "he laid the Holy Scriptures behind the door and under the bench, refused to be called doctor of Theology, but preferred to be styled doctor of Medicine". Plays and comic puppet theatre loosely based on this legend were popular throughout Germany in the 16th century, often reducing Faust and Mephistopheles to figures of vulgar fun. The story was popularised in England by Christopher Marlowe, who gave it a classic treatment in his play, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (whose date of publication is debated, but likely around 1587). In Goethe's reworking of the story two hundred years later, Faust becomes a dissatisfied intellectual who yearns for "more than earthly meat and drink" in his life.

Harry Clarke - Faust and Mephistopheles

 

Harry Clarke
Illustrations for Goethe’s "Faust"

In 1925, the great Irish stained-glass artist and book illustrator Harry Clarke (March 17, 1889–January 6, 1931) was commissioned for a special edition of Goethe's Faust

 

Hector Berlioz

The Damnation of Faust

Hector Berlioz - La Damnation de Faust

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 "légende dramatique" (dramatic legend). It was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 6 December 1846.
 

The French composer was inspired by a translation of Goethe's dramatic poem Faust and produced a musical work that, like the masterpiece on which it is based, defies easy categorization. 
 

Berlioz read Goethe's Faust Part One in 1828, in Gérard de Nerval's translation; "this marvelous book fascinated me from the first", he recalled in his Memoirs. "I could not put it down. I read it incessantly, at meals, in the theatre, in the street." He was so impressed that a suite entitled "Eight Scenes from Faust" became his Opus 1 (1829), though he later recalled all the copies of it he could find. He returned to the material in 1845, to make a larger work, with some additional text by Almire Gandonnière to Berlioz's specifications, that he first called a "concert opera", and as it expanded, finally a "dramatic legend".

Roles


The Damnation of Faust

Opera in four parts by Hector Berlioz, libretto by Hector Berlioz.
Based on Goethe's Faust

Composed 1845

Performed 6 December 1846






Marguerite, a young woman 
Faust, an aging scholar
Méphistophélès, the Devil disguised as a gentleman   
Brander, a student

Peasants, gnomes and sylphs, soldiers and students, demons and the damned, celestial spirits


 

Synopsis

Part I

The aging 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 fame.

Part II

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 lives.

Part III

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.

Part IV

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.

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