Charles Gounod

Faust

opera in three acts

Recommended age +

Dates

Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré based on the first part of Goethe's eponymous tragedy
Musical director: Andrey Ivanov
Director: Anna Motornaya
Sets and costumes: People's Artist of Russia, laureate of the State Prize of the Republic of Belarus Vyacheslav Okunev
Chorus master: People’s Artist of Belarus, laureate of the State Prize of the Republic of Belarus Nina Lomanovich
Choreography and staging: Natalia Moskvicheva
Assistant conductor: Vladimir Ovodok
Lighting designer: Anton Pomorev
Computer graphics: Evgeny Lytkin
Conductor: recipient of the Francysk Skaryna Medal Ivan Kostyakhin
Running time: 3 hours 40 minutes with two intervals
Sung in French with Russian surtitles
Premiere: 21 November 2020

PROLOGUE

 

In his declining years, an aging scholar, Dr Faust, realizes that everything he has spent his life on has not brought him the main thing: he has understood the laws of nature, but he cannot control them; he has comprehended the structure and tenets of being, but he has no satisfaction from life. Disappointment suggests the only way out - it is death. Reality abruptly intrudes into the doctor’s thoughts with the voices of the townspeople: carefree and life-loving, they glorify the beauty of the world and praise the Creator. But this joy is unattainable for Faust: what can God give him? He won’t bring him back to a full life!

 

In desperation, Faust defies the Creator and calls on Satan, but does he, a rationalist, expect that a simple word will change everything? The surrounding space suddenly transforms and fills with strange things and characters. What is it? Is it a game of inflamed consciousness, illusion, or reality? The disconcerted doctor is ready to drive away the uninvited guests. Méphistophélès offers a good deal: the fulfillment of any desires in exchange for a trifle – a soul. Faust voices his dearest wish – the return of his happy youth. The devil’s last argument is a tempting vision of the beautiful Marguerite, and the doctor signs the contract. The old man will regain his vigorous youth, and the master of the underworld will receive his soul for untimely use.

 

Faust is euphoric, Méphistophélès is intrigued. The game begins!

 

 

Act I

The year 1935.

 

There is a lot of activity at the studio; director Wagner has to film some spectacular episodes today: “The Fair” and “The Carnival” scenes for the film adaptation of the opera Faust, and an episode for The Saga of the Nibelungs. However, his plans are ruined by unforeseen circumstances. Suddenly Marguerite’s brother, Valentin, appears on the set. He is going off to war and is concerned about leaving his sister Marguerite unprotected. Marguerite gives her brother a medallion that is supposed to shield him during battles, Wagner asks Valentin not to worry unnecessarily, and Siébel, a young man in love with Marguerite, swears to Valentin that he will always watch over her. Valentin bids farewell to Marguerite.

 

Wagner persuades everyone to forget about their sorrows and sings a humorous song about a rat, but he is interrupted by Méphistophélès who suddenly emerges. Disconcerted by the appearance of a stranger, the director makes fun of him, but nothing can stop Méphistophélès who has come to have fun! Satan makes an indelible impression on everyone: they are intrigued by his song, he predicts Wagner’s imminent death, tells Siébel that flowers will wither at his touch, and treats everyone to magnificent wine that appears out of nowhere.

 

Valentin is enraged: he attacks the weird stranger, but the weapon breaks in his hand. Everyone retreats in fear, realizing who they are dealing with.

 

Yet Méphistophélès has not been prepared for such a rebuff. The appearance of Faust, demanding an immediate meeting with Marguerite, forces him to act straight away. The carnival dances a waltz, in the midst of which Marguerite appears. Faust offers her his arm, but Marguerite declines the stranger’s addresses and leaves. Faust is entranced and distressed: the girl has turned him down.

 

 

Act II

 

Siébel sneaks into the garden in front of Marguerite’s house to confess his feelings to her. He picks flowers, wishing to leave a bouquet to his beloved, but the prophecy comes true: the flowers wither as soon as he touches them. Then the young man washes his hands with holy water, and – what a miracle! – the curse no longer holds sway over him. 

 

Méphistophélès leads Faust to Marguerite’s house. Faust is excited about the upcoming meeting, but Méphistophélès offers his best plot also here: a casket of jewels will help Marguerite to make the right choice – Siébel’s bouquets will not be competitive.

 

In Frau Marthe’s tailor shop, work is in full swing – the girls have to make a new batch of costumes for the film studio. Marguerite sings a ballad about the King of Thule, but her thoughts are far away; she is preoccupied with the young man who has invited her to dance on the set of the film studio.

 

Suddenly, she notices a bouquet from Siébel, and then sees the casket. The girls are thrilled! Alas, the illusion of happiness sometimes so timely overshadows reality.

 

The appearance of Frau Marthe suddenly changes Méphistophélès’ plans. His attempts to arrange a romantic date for Faust turn into his own affair with a very enterprising person. 

 

Faust is finally left alone with Marguerite. The young man can no longer hide his feelings. The girl is deeply moved by Faust’s fervent and tender declaration. The cunning diabolical plan has worked: the girl tells the stars about her love, and the lovers’ bodies entwine in a fit of passion.

 

Act III

 

Marguerite is abandoned by everyone: Faust has left her, her former friends laugh angrily at her misfortune, and the society despises her deed. Marthe is poverty-stricken and all her thoughts are about how to get rid of the girl with the child. Siébel is the only support, though he finds no words of comfort.

 

Marguerite still loves Faust and is ready to pray for him and for his child, whom she is expecting. She goes to church, but the awareness of her sinful deeds does not allow her to cross the threshold of the cathedral. Marguerite makes a plea to God, but Méphistophélès decides to break her will and summons the spirits of evil. Their voices terrify the girl; Satan curses Marguerite.

 

Soldiers return from the war. At the station square, Valentin meets Siébel, but the young man’s behavior makes him doubt the joy of the upcoming meeting. Valentin is beside himself.

 

Beset by remorse, Faust approaches Marguerite’s house. To make Faust forget Marguerite as soon as possible, Méphistophélès sings a sarcastic serenade, and his retinue performs a vulgar theatrical pastorale. Valentin emerges to the sound of the song. He demands satisfaction. Méphistophélès removes the obstacles in his way: Valentin is murdered, Marguerite is cursed and driven to madness.  Accompanied by the devil, Faust leaves for the cabaret Walpurgis Night, where only illusion, only pleasure and oblivion await him. But the image of his beloved pops up in Faust’s imagination, and he tries to break the bonds of Walpurgis Night. He understands that punishment is inevitable, but he is prepared to sacrifice himself to save Marguerite!

 

Marguerite is imprisoned: her mind is totally confused, she has killed her own child and will be executed.

 

Faust deeply repents of his actions, but Méphistophélès will not give up. Marguerite’s faith and love, the purity of her sincere soul are stronger than Hell. By the power of her prayer, by her willingness to sacrifice herself, Marguerite saves Faust’s soul. 

 

May the light of Divine Love shine on!

 

In 2021, the production was awarded the National Theatre Prize in the nomination "Best Opera Production"

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