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Love, lust and a pact with the devil: what could possibly go wrong?
Disillusioned with life, the ageing Faust trades his soul to the devil Méphistophélès in exchange for youth and the love of the beautiful Marguerite. She falls for the younger dashing man, but Faust soon loses interest and abandons her to pursue a life of lust. On returning from war her brother Valentin is furious to find Marguerite seduced and pregnant, and seeks revenge. Will a woman’s love be enough to make Faust repent or will the pact he made with the devil wreak havoc?
Welsh National Opera performed the title as part of our first ever opera season back in 1946, so there is no better way to mark our 75th birthday celebrations than with a devilish new production. The story of Faust is one of the most popular subjects in opera, and Gounod’s intimate score sets the mood through both gently lyrical and playfully menacing arias, and is completed with vibrant costumes and staging.
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Cast & Creative
Ageing scientist, Faust, despairs of his attempts to fathom the origin of life and find the remedy for eternal youth. Disillusioned, he intends to bring his life to an end, but then one of his experiments produces a result: Faust's alter-ego Méphistophélès appears and promises him new youth and a life full of pleasure. A vision of the beautiful Marguerite arouses Faust’s desire. He makes a pact with Méphistophélès and asks him to take him to Marguerite.
In a club, soldiers celebrate their farewell before they go to war. Among them is Valentin, Marguerite’s brother. He entrusts his sister to the protection of his friend Siébel during his absence. Méphistophélès introduces himself with the sarcastic Rondo of the Golden Calf and bewitches those present with fortune-telling. His allusions to Marguerite provoke Valentin, but he and his friends appear powerless against Méphistophélès' magic. In the turmoil, Faust speaks to Marguerite, but she rejects him.
Siébel hopes to convince Marguerite of his love with a bouquet of flowers, even if, as Méphistophélès predicted, the flowers wither and wilt. Faust, too, is torn apart by his love: while he gushes about Marguerite's innocence, Méphistophélès gives him precious gifts to impress her. Marguerite is overwhelmed by the jewellery and forgets about Siébel's flowers. Her neighbour Marthe is in awe. Méphistophélès flirts with her to give Faust the opportunity to be alone with Marguerite. The two confess their love before Marguerite says goodbye, but spurred on by Méphistophélès, Faust spends the night with her.
The pregnant Marguerite suffers from social ostracism as everyone knows Faust has left her. Only Siébel stands by her but he needs to recognise that Marguerite still loves Faust. Persecuted by her demons, in vain she seeks comfort in prayer. The soldiers are returning. Siébel can't prevent Valentin from finding out about his sister's shame. When Méphistophélès mocks the outraged brother, a duel ensues between Valentin, Faust and Méphistophélès, during which Valentin is killed. He curses his sister as he is dying.
While Marguerite struggles with the birth of her child, Méphistophélès tries to divert Faust from his remorse. But Faust decides to save Marguerite, who has since been arrested for killing their new-born. Marguerite awaits execution in the dungeon. Faust conjures up their mutual love but Marguerite resists and refuses to flee with him. She calls for divine protection. Faust looks on with despair.