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Gran Teatro La Fenice

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  • 17.04.2024 Wed
  • 20.04.2024 Sat
  • 23.04.2024 Tue

Mefistofele, Opera by A. Boito

Mefistofele, Opera by A. Boito

Mefistofele is the most popular opera rendition of the legend of Dr Faust and his fateful arrangement with the Devil. Being Arrigo Boito’s singular opera, it offers a unique experience. The Italian composer and librettist approached the source material with reverence and ambition. Unimpressed by previous operatic versions, he set his goals high and meant to do Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s epic poem justice, musically and dramatically. Nevertheless, Mefistofele was not an instant success. At its premiere at Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 5 March 1868, the lengthy five acts upset audiences, and the modern-sounding score proved challenging to the orchestra and the cast. Setbacks notwithstanding, Boito kept on going. He shortened the opera to accommodate audience’s lack of stamina while preserving the story's completeness. The re-imagined Mefistofele would premiere at Teatro Communal in Bologna in 1875 and win some accolades and praise. The version at Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice is going to demonstrate why it is still the best musical rendition of the Faust myth.

In developing Mefistofele musically and narratively, Boito constantly looked up to Goethe’s masterpiece and struggled to transport its many qualities to the opera stage. In a nod to Richard Wagner, Boito also wrote the libretto – a risky move in Italian opera at the time. The plot remained faithful to Goethe’s original, and Boito would mostly translate the German source text verbatim into Italian. The action focuses on Dr Faust who trades his immortal soul for youth and earthly pleasures, which Mefistofele, or the Devil, promises to deliver in return. His encounters, especially his romance with the pure-hearted Margherita, end up in tragedy without exception. Whether Faust will continue destroying everyone in his path or find the strength to break his diabolical deal – only the full opera will tell!

Gran Teatro La Fenice stages Boito’s Mefistofele this season with the intention to immerse audiences in a deep dive into the Faust legend. The opera tackles the timeless themes of desire, morality, mortality, and the search for knowledge. The only opera Arrigo Boito completed in his lifetime seemingly took everything out of its auteur. And the results speak for themselves: while not a smashing success, Mefistofele has survived the test of time and still captivates audiences the world over. This season in Venice will be no different.

image Gran Teatro La Fenice / Fondazione Teatro La Fenice, Michele Crosera