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The Stars of the White Nights 2018
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25 July 2017 (Tue), 19:00 World famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera - established 1783 - Stars of the Stars  Opera Charles Gounod "Faust" (opera in five acts)

Running time: 3 hours 20 minutes (till 22:20)

The performance has 1 intermission

Schedule for Charles Gounod "Faust" (opera in five acts) 2017/2018

Tenor: Sergei Semishkur
Conductor: Christian Knapp

Composer: Charles Gounod
Principal Chorus Master: Andrei Petrenko
Musical Preparation: Natalia Mordashova
Musical Director: Maestro Valery Gergiev
Libretto: Jules Barbier
Libretto: Michel Carre
Director: Isabella Bywater
Set Designer: Isabella Bywater
Costume Designer: Isabella Bywater
Costume Designer: Nicky Shaw
Lighting Designer: Jennifer Schreiver

Orchestra: Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra
Opera company: Mariinsky (Kirov) Opera

Opera in 5 act

Performed in French with synchronised Russian supertitles

World premiere: 19 March 1859, Theatre-Lyrique, Paris, France
Premiere in Russia: 15 September 1869 Mariinsky theatre, St Petersburg, Russia
Premiere of this production: 26 April 2013 , Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia

The opera Faust is one of the most popular French operas, second only to Carmen, but some individual arias and songs from it are even more popular as stage “hits” – Marguerite’s “jewel song”, Siebel’s romance, Valentin’s cavatina, Mephistophelès’ couplets and serenade and Faust’s cavatina. Today it is hard to believe that the first production at the Theâtre Lyrique in Paris enjoyed little success – the public did not like it and no publisher agreed to print the score. Antoine Choudens was the most shrewd publisher (later he was the first to print Bizet’s Carmen and works by the young Debussy). Having purchased the rights to the masterpiece, despite its lack of popularity, Choudens was also its first “producer”, fervently offering Faust to other theatres. In 1860 this French opera was performed at German theatres. And only after the opera began its triumphant march from one European and American theatre to another (it was staged in New York in 1863) did it finally come to the attention of the Opera de Paris where it was staged in 1869, though for this to take place the composer had to add the ballet scene Walpurgis Night. The same year, on 15 September 1869, the opera was staged at the Mariinsky Theatre.

The opera is now being staged by Isabella Bywater, who has already worked at the Mariinsky Theatre as a production designer for Britten’s opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream(production by Claudia Solti). Faust is Bywater’s first work as a production director. Isabella Bywater is convinced that there is a hidden danger in the music: “It is interesting to listen to beautiful music while at the same time dark forces are afoot on-stage. This incredible counterpoint influences your view of the music – you hear its beauty but at the same time you sense the danger.”

The lead roles are being rehearsed by Khachatur Badalyan, Sergei Semishkur, Alexander Trofimov, Dmitry Voropaev and Nikolai Yemtsov (Dr Faust), Irina Churilova, Yekaterina Goncharova, Violetta Lukyanenko, Oxana Shilova and Eleonora Vindau (Marguerite), Askar Abdrazakov, Ildar Abdrazakov, Vladimir Felyauer and Alexei Tanovitsky (Méphistophélès), Viktor Korotich, Alexei Markov, Vladimir Moroz and Vladislav Sulimsky (Valentin), Nikolai Kamensky, Yevgeny Ulanov and Grigor Verner (Wagner), Yulia Matochkina, Yekaterina Sergeyeva, Irina Shishkova and Mayram Sokolova (Siébel) and Elena Vitman and Svetlana Volkova (Marthe).

Faust is a grand opera in five acts by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carre from Carre's play Faust et Marguerite, in turn loosely based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, Part 1. It debuted at the Theâtre Lyrique on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris on 19 March 1859.

Faust was rejected by the Paris Opera, on the grounds that it was not sufficiently "showy", and its appearance at the Theatre-Lyrique was delayed for a year because Adolphe d'Ennery's dramaFaust was playing at the Porte St. Martin. The manager Leon Carvalho (who cast his wife Marie Miolan-Carvalho as Marguerite) insisted on various changes during production, including cutting several numbers.

Faust was not initially well-received. The publisher Antoine Choudens, who purchased the copyright for 10,000 francs, took the work (with added recitatives replacing the original spoken dialogue) on tour through Germany, Belgium, Italy and England, with Marie Miolan-Carvalho repeating her role.

It was revived in Paris in 1862, and was a hit. A ballet had to be inserted before the work could be played at the Opera in 1869: it became the most frequently performed opera at that house and a staple of the international repertory, which it remained for decades, being translated into at least 25 languages.

Its popularity and critical reputation have declined somewhat since around 1950. A full production, with its large chorus and elaborate sets and costumes, is an expensive undertaking, particularly if the act 5 ballet is included. However, it appears as number 35 on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide.

It was Faust with which the Metropolitan Opera in New York City opened for the first time on 22 October 1883. It is the eighth most frequently performed opera there, with 747 performances through the 2011-2012 season. It was not until the period between 1965 and 1977 that the full version was performed (and then with some minor cuts), and all performances in that production included the Walpurgisnacht and the ballet.




Synopsis

Act 1
Faust, an aging professor, despairs that his life has been wasted, since his studies, and religious faith have not given him the answers he was looking for (Rien! En vain j'interroge). He prepares to kill himself with poison but hesitates in doubt. He curses science and faith, and asks for infernal guidance. Méphistophélès appears (duet: Me voice) and, with a tempting image of young Marguerite at her looking glass, he persuades Faust to buy Méphistophélès's services on earth in exchange for Faust's in Hell. Faust's glass of poison becomes an elixir of youth, making the middle-aged doctor feel young; the strange companions then set out into the world.

Act 2
A chorus of academics, soldiers and students sing a drinking song (Vin ou Bière). Valentin, Marguerite’s brother, is soon leaving for war and he entrusts the care of his sister to her friend Siébel (O sainte médaille ... Avant de quitter ces lieux). Méphistophélès appears and sings a rousing, irreverent song about the Golden Calf (Le veau d'or) and after, provides the uneasy crowdwine. Méphistophélès maligns Marguerite, and Valentin tries to strike him with his sword, which shatters in the air. Valentin uses the cross-shaped hilt of his sword to fend off what they now fear is an infernal power (chorus: De l'enfer). Méphistophélès is joined by Faust and the young girls in a waltz (Ainsi que la brise légère). Marguerite appears briefly and Faust attempts to charm her, but she refuses his offer to walk her home out of modesty.

Act 3
Siébel leaves a bouquet for Marguerite (Faites-lui mes aveux). Méphistophélès insists in searching for a  more tempting gift for Marguerite and Faust sings a cavatina (Salut, demeure chaste et pure) idealizing Marguerite as a pure child of nature. Méphistophélès returns with a beautiful box containing exquisite jewelry and Faust leaves it on Marguerite's doorstep, near Siébel's flowers. Marguerite enters, pondering her encounter with Faust, and sings a melancholy ballad about the King of Thulé (Il était un roi de Thulé). Marthe, Marguerite's neighbour, notices the jewelry and says it must be from an admirer. Marguerite tries on the jewels and is captivated by how they enhance her beauty, as she sings in the famous aria, the Jewel Song (Ah! je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir). Méphistophélès and Faust join the women, Mephistopheles distracts Marthe and leaves Faust to seduce Marguerite. Marguerite eventually allows Faust to kiss her (Laisse-moi, laisse-moi contempler ton visage), but then in panic demands he goes away. She sings at her window of her interest in him, and Faust, listening, returns. Under the watchful eye and malevolent laughter of Méphistophélès, it is clear that Faust's seduction of young Marguerite is achieved.

Act 4
After being impregnated and abandoned by Faust, Marguerite is a social outcast. She is alone in her room (Il ne revient pas). Siébel visits and stands by her. Marguerite goes to the church and tries to pray there but is frightened, first by Méphistophélès and then by a choir of demons. She finishes her prayer but faints when she is cursed again by Méphistophélès. The scene shifts to the return of the soldiers - Valentin's company returns from the war to a military march (Deposons les armes and Gloire immortelle de nos aïeux). Siébel tries to keep Valentin from Marguerite as she is afraid he will punish her, but after looking for her in the church he returns to Marguerites room and breaks in. While he is inside Faust and Méphistophélès appear, and Méphistophélès sings her a mocking burlesque of a lover's serenade (Vous qui faites l'endormie). Valentin emerges from her room, furious at what has happened to Marguerite and suspecting that it is Faust who has debauched his sister. The men fight, Méphistophélès blocking Valentin's sword, allowing Faust to make the fatal thrust. With his dying breath Valentin blames Marguerite for his death and condemns her to Hell (Ecoute-moi bien Marguerite).

Act 5
Méphistophélès and Faust return to  visit Marguerite. Outside is Siebel, asleep, guarding her friend. Faust retrieves the key from the sleeping figure and enters Marguerite’s room. He sees she is in a terrible state, bleeding and pale, and may die. He and Marguerite sing a love duet (Oui, c'est toi que j'aime). Méphistophélès states that only Faust can deliver Marguerite from her fate, and he tries to help her, but she prefers to trust her fate to God and His angels (Anges purs, anges radieux). At the end she asks why Faust's hands are covered in her blood, pushes him away, and collapses. Méphistophélès curses, as a voice on high sings "Sauvée!" ("Saved!"). The bells of Easter sound and a chorus of angels sings "Christ est ressuscité!" ('"Christ is risen!"). And Marguerite's soul rises to heaven. In despair Faust follows it with his eyes; he falls to his knees and prays.

Isabella Bywater




Schedule for Charles Gounod "Faust" (opera in five acts) 2017/2018


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