Photo via Facebook / Tobin Center for the Performing Arts
Whether it’s in the form of a country song (“The Devil Went Down to Georgia”), an animated sitcom (Futurama’s “The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings”), or a classic horror flick (Rosemary’s Baby), a deal with the devil remains a popular motif in modern media. While the religious roots of the archetype reach deep into the annals of history, modern retellings owe a major debt to the ultimate demonic deal: the sale of Dr. Faust’s soul to Mephistopheles in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s philosophical masterwork, Faust. In the mid-1800s, French composer Charles Gounod put his own spin on Goethe’s play with an operatic adaptation that launched his career.
A four-to-five act opera (the final acts can be staged in multiple ways), Faust follows the plot of Part One of Goethe’s original, with a close focus on the doomed relationship between the Doctor and the naïve Marguerite (originally Margarethe). The opera showcases Gounod’s versatility, ranging from the gentle lyricism of Marguerite’s arias (“Ah! je ris de me voir” is a famous example) to darkly sardonic passages sung by Mephistopheles as he enacts his sinister machinations.
Interestingly, rather than adapt Goethe directly, Gounod used a libretto by Julies Barbier and Michel Carré based on Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite. After the opera’s premiere, many Germans were so incensed by what they perceived as the butchering of the original that they refused to call it Faust, instead titling it Margarethe. So, if you thought that the commonly grumbled phrase “the original book/play/what-have-you was better” was a modern phenomenon, then let this 19th-century pettiness disabuse you of the notion.
$35-$184, 7:30pm Thu May 9 & Sat May 11, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, H-E-B- Performance Hall, 100 Auditorium Circle, (210) 223-8624, operasa.org.
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