Doktor Faust, Opera by F. Busoni
The fantastical and scary myth of Doctor Faust and his deal with the devil intrigued Ferruccio Busoni so much that he devoted the last years of his life to turning it into an opera of epic proportions. From 1916 to 1924, the year of his death, the Italian composer and piano virtuoso worked tirelessly on what he considered his magnum opus. Thanks to his extended education and career stations in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, Busoni was also able to produce the German libretto. Sadly, he passed away before completing the score, but his student Philipp Jarnach brought the work to completion using Busoni’s sketches. The premiere took place at the Sächsisches Staatstheater in Dresden on 21 May 1925. From there, many opera houses across Europe picked up Doktor Faust, making it a regular number in the repertoire. Its Italian debut was at Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence in 1942. This season, it is coming to its Florentine home again!
The plot of Doktor Faust follows the supernatural escapades of the titular character, a university rector who receives a volume of black magic from three mysterious visitors. Thanks to the book’s powers, Faust summons Mephistopheles himself and enters into a most controversial pact with him. In exchange for the devil’s services in this life, Faust will in turn serve Mephistopheles in the next one. Although the thought of sacrificing his immortal soul scares him for a moment, the protagonist quickly forgets the contract’s dreadful ramifications and embarks on a hedonistic journey that sows misery and death in the lives of nearly everyone he touches. However, the day of Faust’s retribution is much closer than he reckons.
Busoni treats the classic myth of Faust, made famous by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s epic poem, with incredible reverence that does not stifle his musical creativity. Thus, Doktor Faust as an opera sounds fresh and modern, thanks to the composer’s refined scholarly sense of musical aesthetics and his adventures in atonality. Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino welcomes Faust to his Italian home.