Opera for One: Faust


Opera for One: Faust

Arts Centre Melbourne, State TheatreDecember 3, 2019
B Reserve
Tue 3.12.19
7:30 PM
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What would you give up your soul for?

Faust intends to win his heart’s desires, even if it costs him his soul. Led into temptation by the charming Méphistophélès, the ageing academic swaps moral restraint for a salacious journey through life’s earthly pleasures. But as the lives around him start to unravel, the devil, it seems, is in the detail.

Sir David McVicar’s grand production sets the opera in the composer’s own time: the decadence and debauchery of 1870s Paris. Between towering cathedral columns and the crumbling proscenium arch of the theatre, Faust’s terrible pact plays out in all of its sinister splendour.

And splendid it is. Charles Edwards’ stunning sets recreate iconic Paris landmarks, including a colourful Cabaret de l’Enfer, an opera box from the Palais Garnier and the organ loft of Notre-Dame.

Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s lavish costumes are truly spectacular. The images are at once delightful and disturbing, a reminder that given the chance, any one of us might stumble down Faust’s road.

Behind all this is the resounding beauty of Gounod’s music, including the famous ‘ Soldier’s Chorus’, the rousing ‘Le veau d’or’ and Marguerite’s beautiful ‘Jewel Song’.

Faust is grand opera at its very best, with a hefty dose of theatricality and wit from a director renowned for his nuanced productions.

French maestro Guillaume Tourniaire leads an exciting cast. Saimir Pirgu sings the title role with the impossibly young Kazakh soprano, Maria Mudryak, as Marguerite. Teddy Tahu Rhodes is dazzling as Méphistophélès.

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Conductor Guillaume Tourniaire
Director David McVicar
Revival Director Bruno Ravella
Set Designer Charles Edwards
Costume Designer Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Lighting Designer Paule Constable
Choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan
Revival Choreographer
& Assistant Director
Shane Placentino
Fight Director Nigel Poulton
Faust Saimir Pirgu
Marguerite Maria Mudryak
Méphistophélès Teddy Tahu Rhodes
Valentin Luke Gabbedy
Marthe Dominica Matthews
Siébel Anna Dowsley
Wagner Shane Lowrencev

Opera Australia Chorus

Orchestra Victoria

Please note: this production contains strobe lighting effects and adult themes; not recommended for children.

Running time: approximately 3 hours & 15 minutes, including one interval.

Sung in French with English surtitles.

Based on the co-production by Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Opéra de Lille, and Fondazione Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, Trieste and first performed at Covent Garden. This production was commissioned by the Opera Conference, Australia’s national partnership of professional opera companies.

Production Patron

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Opera for One

The StoryHide

Disillusioned with life, an ageing scholar makes a deal with the devil. He gains youth, beauty, love and riches and the services of Méphistophélès himself on this earth.

For these, he trades his freedom in the afterlife, but what will he regret on earth?

Not afraid of spoilers? Read the full synopsis.

Act I

Weary of life and the vain pursuit of knowledge, the aged Faust decides on suicide. He is stopped in his tracks by the light of dawn and voices singing God’s praises. Faust bitterly renounces God and calls on Satan. Méphistophélès duly appears. He will satisfy Faust’s hedonistic demands in return for the philosopher’s soul. Hesitating at the last moment before signing the diabolic contract, Faust is finally swayed by a vision conjured up by Méphistophélès of the beautiful and innocent Marguerite: Faust must have her.

Act II

The town is celebrating. In their midst, Valentin is preoccupied with thoughts of leaving to fight in the war. He asks his friends to look after his sister Marguerite while he is away; among them is Siébel, who is in love with her. They are interrupted by Méphistophélès, who sings a blasphemous song and makes innuendos about Marguerite. This is too much for Valentin who is roused to defend his sister and attack Méphistophélès, but his sword breaks mid-air and everyone hastily withdraws. Méphistophélès is joined by Faust; when Marguerite appears she rejects Faust’s attentions.


Siébel leaves a bouquet of flowers for Marguerite. Next, Faust extols the virtues of Marguerite’s home while Méphistophélès also finds something to leave her: a box full of jewels. Marguerite appears, lost in thought, but is overcome with excitement as she discovers the jewel box and tries on its contents. Marthe Schwertlein, Marguerite’s neighbour, thinks that the jewels must be from an admirer. When both women are joined by Méphistophélès and Faust, the former distracts Marthe so that Faust can seduce Marguerite.

Act IV

Five months have passed. Marguerite has been deserted by Faust, but is carrying his child. In church, her prayers are repeatedly interrupted by demons. She faints as Méphistophélès’ final curse denies her the hope of salvation.

Soldiers return from the war, Valentin among them. He asks Siébel to tell him how his sister is, but Siébel’s evasions prompt him angrily to rush into Marguerite’s house to find out for himself. Méphistophélès and Faust arrive, and the Devil satirically serenades Marguerite. Valentin emerges from the house demanding to know who is responsible for his sister’s shame. In the ensuing duel, Faust mortally wounds Valentin, who with his final words denies Marguerite any Christian compassion and damns her for eternity.

Act V

It is Walpurgis Night and a diabolic ballet ensues. Faust is subjected to visions, the last of which is of Marguerite in prison for the murder of their child and awaiting execution. Faust wants to go to her, and Méphistophélès obliges. Together in the cell, Faust and Marguerite remember their shared moments of love and Faust urges her to flee with him, but she resists, calling for divine protection. Marguerite’s supplication is answered: her soul ascends to heaven.

Synopsis reproduced by permission of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“Méphistophélès is a gift of a role, and Teddy Tahu Rhodes grabs it whole-heartedly.”

— The Sydney Morning Herald

Faust is a devilishly enjoyable outing”

— The Daily Telegraph

"This Faust should please traditionalists and progressives alike"

Limelight magazine
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