Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
What would you give up your soul for?
Faust intends to win his heart’s desires, even if it costs him his soul.
The charming Méphistophélès offers him a salacious journey through life’s pleasures. Faust bargains away eternity and dives right in. But as the lives around him start to unravel, the devil, it seems, is in the detail.
This grand production sets the opera in the decadence and debauchery of 1870s Paris. Cathedral columns tower behind a crumbling proscenium arch, where Faust’s terrible pact plays out in all 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 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 Soldiers’ 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 from renowned director, Sir David McVicar.
Lorenzo Passerini conducts an exciting cast. Who better to play the devil than the devilishly handsome Teddy Tahu Rhodes? Ivan Magrì is Faust, and Irina Lungu is the woman he loves, Marguerite. Michael Honeyman is her brother, Valentin.
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|Assistant Director||Matthew Barclay|
|Lighting realised by||Catherine Alexander|
|Rehearsal Choreographer||Shane Placentino|
Please note: this production contains strobe lighting effects.
Running time: approximately 3 hours & 20 minutes, including one interval.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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This production of Faust contains depictions of sexual violence that may cause distress.
There's more information, but it contains spoilers.