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Mefistofele, Opera by A. Boito

Mefistofele, Opera by A. Boito

Mefistofele, the opera adaptation of the legendary tale about Dr Faust's fatal pact with the Devil, is a unique experience. Its author Arrigo Boito, an Italian librettist and composer, approached the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s source material with the goal to unlock the story's complexities and score it appropriately for the first time ever. However, the opera faced challenges during its premiere at Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 5 March 1868. The lengthy five acts tested the audience's patience, while the musical complexity of the score pushed the cast beyond its modest limits. Despite these setbacks, Boito was determined to succeed. He abridged the original version to strike a balance between pleasing audiences and preserving the story's essence. These efforts paid off, as Mefistofele found some success in revivals throughout the coming decades, starting on 4 October 1875 in Bologna. Teatro dell'Opera di Roma welcomes this old classic back to its stage.

Boito revered Goethe's treatment of the Faust legend, recognizing its depth, while disliking previous superficial opera adaptations. Drawing inspiration from Richard Wagner, Boito wrote his own libretto, which likely caused the first version’s excessive length and lack of appeal. The plot closely follows Goethe's Faust, with Boito providing an Italian translation of the German source. Dr Faust sells his immortal soul to Mefistofele in exchange for youth and earthly pleasures. His encounters, particularly with the innocent Margherita, lead to tragic consequences. The narrative explores themes of redemption and remorse.

Teatro Costanzi in Rome will showcase Mefistofele this season, inviting audiences to immerse themselves in an unforgettable experience. The opera delves into timeless themes of desire, morality and the pursuit of knowledge. It is the only opera Arrigo Boito completed in his lifetime, and the creative process seemed to take everything out of its well-meaning yet not fully fit author. Still, the version of Mefistofele that survived to this day is a one-off that needs to be seen. Prepare for a captivating journey filled with anticipation and intrigue.

image Rome Opera House / Silvia Lelli / Teatro dell'Opera di Roma