Auckland Opera Forum
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only $60 for 9 evenings
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Tuesday, 09 April 7:30pm
An opera in a prologue, four acts and an epilogue
by Arrigo Boito (1842-1918)
to his own libretto after Johann Wolfgang van Goethe’s play Faust
Premièred at Teatro alla Scala, Milan on 5 March 1868
René Pape, bass
Joseph Calleja, tenor
Kristine Opolais, soprano
Karine Babajanyan, soprano
Heike Grotzinger, mezzo-soprano
Andrea Borghini, baritone
Rachael Wilson, mezzo-soprano
Joshua Owen Mills, tenor
A 2015 production from Bayerische Staatsoper
Direction by Roland Schwab
Set Design by Piero Vinciguerra
Costume Design by Renée Listerdal
Lighting Design by Michael Bauer
Chorus and children’s chorus of the Bayerische Staatsoper
Bayerisches Staatsorchester conducted by Paolo Carignani
What reviewers said about the production
Singing “with clear, strong bass lines” (Deutschlandradio Kultur), René Papeplays Mefistofele as the sardonic leader of a satanic cult. As Faust, his slave, Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja “hits his high notes with formidable vigour” (Financial Times). Latvian soprano Kristine Opolais’s Margherita “shines with understated Grace Kelly elegance” (Opera Today), while as Elena – the fabled Helen of Troy – Armenian soprano Karine Babajanyan“shines with heroic high notes” (Süddeutsche Zeitung). Finally, in the pit, Israeli conductor Omer Meir Wellber “holds all the musical textures together with admirable control” (BR Klassik)
In heaven, Mefistofele mocks the wretched human race. When confronted by God with the notable exception of Faust, the two make a bet: Mefistofele wants to prove that he is able to undermine this perfect human being’s virtues, thus debunking God’s creation as flawed.
As Faust and his student Wagner are strolling through the busy streets of the town, a dark monk attracts their attention. Back home, Faust is about to devote himself to study the Bible when the monk reappears. It is Mefistofele, introducing himself as “the spirit that denies”. He offers Faust a pact: In exchange for his soul, Mefistofele will fulfill his every wish for the rest of his life. Faust agrees under the condition that he will experience genuine happiness.
Thanks to Mefistofele, Faust has regained his youth and courts Margherita and gains her favor while Mefistofele turns to her neighbor Martha. Faust coerces Margherita to administer her mother a sleeping potion so that the two lovers can meet at night undisturbed. Mefistofele and Faust climb up the Bracken where they celebrate a witches’ sabbath. A vision comes over Faust, showing him a shackled, incarcerated Margherita.
Margherita has poisoned her mother with Faust’s sleeping potion and, in a state of mania, drowned her child. Now, she awaits her execution in prison. When Faust arrives to free her, she turns towards him at first. Yet on Mefistofele’s arrival she realizes the source of all of her sorrows and begs God for forgiveness, whereupon a choir of angels declares her salvation.
Mefistofele takes Faust to Ancient Greece. There, he courts the beautiful Helen whom he manages to win over. They indulge in their happiness.
Faust’s death draws nearer. He reflects upon his life and his quest for true happiness. He tells Mefistofele that he has failed to meet this specific premise of their pact. He realizes that only the love of God leads to true happiness and is thus able to break free from Mefistofele. Redeemed, he ascends into heaven.