La damnation de Faust (concertante), Opera by H. Berlioz
The great French composer Hector Berlioz was fascinated with the epic poem “Faust” by German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe at first read. The idea of bringing the text to the classical stage preoccupied him, and he went through several iterations until he arrived at La damnation de Faust. A work that defies classification, it is as complex as its source text. Through the years, it took a few different production formats, but the most popular one remains the ‘concert opera’ with the focus squarely on Goethe’s verses and Berlioz’s mesmerising music. In this form, La damnation de Faust was premiered in Paris at the famed Opéra-Comique on 6 December 1846. Florence’s Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino now revives this classic.
Initially lukewarm, the critical and audience reception to La damnation de Faust improved over time. Half an opera and half a cantata in a concert format, it confused people at first, but Berlioz was confident in his creation’s worth. After numerous concert and operatic productions across Europe, its qualities became apparent, and it found its place in the classical music repertoire. Notable pieces from it, like ‘Marche Hongroise’, ‘Ballet des sylphes’, or ‘Nature immense, impénétrable et fière’, have acquired their own fame and often make it into classical concert set lists.
La damnation de Faust stays close to Goethe’s original narrative. It follows the troubles of the ageing scientist Faust when he falls into the trap of Méphistophélès. Disguised as a charismatic gentleman, the devil gives Faust his youth back and takes him out for a night of drinking and debauchery in Leipzig. He then presents to the scholar the image of the young woman Marguerite. Falling in love instantly, Faust demands to meet her. Thanks to Méphistophélès’ sorcery, the girl is seduced. As the devil continues playing with the pair’s emotions and weaving intrigues and manipulations, Faust’s destiny takes a dark turn. Berlioz’s evocative and powerful score is the perfect companion to the hero’s slow descent. Revisit Goethe’s classic story with outstanding musical accompaniment at the Florence Opera House.