Would you strike a deal with the devil?
Witness the ultimate struggle between good and evil in Gounod’s dramatic tale of an aging scholar, an innocent young woman and the Devil himself.
What follows is a struggle between good and evil that is destined for tragedy as only great opera can tell it. Abounding with Gounod’s unforgettable melodies, this new production by Bernard Uzan was a “triumph” at its Arizona premiere.
DON’T MISS the Austin debut of bass-baritone Jamie Offenbach in the role of Mephistopheles. Offenbach has been praised as “made for the part.”
Alone in his study, the aged Dr. Faust despairs that his lifelong search for a solution to the riddle of life has been in vain. Twice he raises a goblet of poison to his lips, but falters when the songs of young men and women outside his window re-awaken the unfulfilled passions and desires of his youth. Cursing life and human passion, the envious philosopher calls on Satan for help. The Devil appears, and Faust tells him of his longing for youth and pleasure; Méphistophélès replies that these desires can be realized if he will forfeit his soul. Faust hesitates until the Devil conjures up a vision of a lovely maiden, Marguerite. A magic potion transforms Faust into a handsome youth, and he leaves with Méphistophélès in search of Marguerite.
ACT I, scene 2
We are now in a bar/club. Valentin, a young officer, holding a medallion from his sister Marguerite, asks his friend Siébel to protect the girl in his absence and then bids a touching farewell. Wagner, a soldier friend of Valentin, starts the revels with a lively song but is interrupted by Méphistophélès, who delivers an impudent hymn in praise of greed and gold. The Devil refuses a drink from Wagner and amazes the crowd by offering champagne to all. When he makes a brazen toast to Marguerite, Valentin draws his weapon, but it shatters. The other men, recognizing Satan, threaten Méphistophélès, who cowers before them. As the crowd goes back to pleasure, Faust speaks to Marguerite. She demurely refuses to let him escort her home. Méphistophélès returns to lead the merrymakers in their dance.
Siébel briefly visits Marguerite’s flower boutique and leaves her a bouquet of flowers. The romantic youth is followed by Faust and Méphistophélès, who goes in search of a gift to outshine Siébel’s. Left alone, Faust hails Marguerite’s simple home. The Devil returns with a box of jewels, which he places near Siébel’s flowers. When Marguerite arrives, she sings a ballad about the King of Thule, distractedly interrupting the verses with reflections on the stranger she has met. Discovering the flowers and box, the girl exclaims in delight as she adorns herself with jewels. Méphistophélès detours a nosy middle-aged neighbor, Marthe, by flirting with her, so that Faust may complete his seduction. As Méphistophélès invokes a beautiful night, Marguerite confesses her love, but nevertheless begs Faust to leave. The Devil mocks Faust’s failure and points to Marguerite, who has reappeared at her window. As she ecstatically expresses her love for Faust, they meet and embrace. She yields to his embraces, as Méphistophélès’ taunting laughter is heard.
ACT III, scene 1
On the street in front of Marguerite’s boutique, Marguerite, who has been abandoned and mocked by all, laments about Faust who never came back. Her only remaining friend, Siebel, tries to comfort her until suddenly we hear fanfares announcing the return of Valentin and his comrades from war, singing the glory of those slain in battle. The soldier questions Siébel about Marguerite but receives only evasive replies; puzzled, he enters his house. Faust, remorseful at having abandoned Marguerite, arrives with Méphistophélès, who serenades the girl with a lewd ballad. Valentin, stepping forth to defend his sister’s honor, fights a duel with Faust. At a crucial moment, Méphistophélès interferes and Valentin is killed. As the Devil drags Faust away, Marguerite kneels by her fatally wounded brother, who curses her with his last breath. She rises slowly and, giggling madly to herself, moves through the crowd of villagers.
ACT III, scene 2
Marguerite seeks refuge in church, but Méphistophélès, who has taken over the church, curses her and torments her with threats of damnation. She collapses.
ACT III, scene 3
Marguerite has been sent to a mental hospital for the murder of her illegitimate child. Faust enters, bent on spiriting her away. As the Devil keeps watch, Faust wakens Marguerite; at first the distracted girl is overjoyed to see her lover, but instead of fleeing with him she tarries to recall their first days of happiness. When Méphistophélès emerges, urging haste, Marguerite calls on the angels to save her. Méphistophélès pronounces her condemned, but a choir of angels proclaims her salvation.
—Courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera