The classic 16th century tale of a simple alchemist who makes a pact with the Devil has inspired countless interpretations over the centuries and been tackled by a vast cross section of greats from the worlds of literature, drama, art, symphony and opera. Marlowe, Goethe, Bulgakov, Mann, Berlioz, Rembrandt, Liszt, Irving, Mahler, Gounod, Schumann... and the list goes on.
Perhaps one of the lesser known operatic interpretations, Busoni's unique departure (drawing not on the Goethe drama but on a German puppet play version) has gained increasing levels of notoriety and recognition over the years and is now considered by many to be one of the truly great German operas of the 20th century.
The composer began work on the epic piece in 1916, leaving it unfinished at the time of his death in 1924. Philipp Jarnach, a student of his, attempted to complete it and produced the 1925 premiere in Dresden. Years later Anthony Beaumont created a separate finished version using notes from Busoni which were previously thought to have been lost. The production currently showing in Munich ambitiously presents the original, unfinished, unaltered draft left behind in 1924.
Production notes describe the undertaking as such: "An intellectual, driven by megalomania, the urge for recognition _ and his own mid-life crisis _ makes a pact with the devil. This subject has experienced countless recreations in art, literature and music most of them based on Goethe's monumental 'Faust' drama. Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni (1866 to 1924), however, took the old German puppet play version, the folk tale 'Historia von D. Johann Fausten' as the source of his opera. The 'Faust' story for once in a totally different guise: as a magic spell and mystery play. With Busoni's Doktor Faust, [audiences] can now finally experience a fascinating encounter with a great composer, who was long consigned to a place in the shadows of Puccini and Italian verismo."
Distinguished opera director Nicolas Brieger stages the work, marking his first collaboration with the Bavarian State Opera. The design team is comprised of Hermann Feuchter (sets), Margit Koppendorfer (costumes) and Alexander Koppelmann (lighting). Czech conductor Toma Netopil mans the podium.
Baritone Wolfgang Koch makes his BSO debut in the title role, with British tenor John Daszak as the seductive, sinister Mephistopheles. Also featured are Raymond Very (Duke of Parma and others), Steven Humes (Wagner, Gravis and others), Catherine Naglestad (Duchess of Parma) and Alfred Kuhn (Master of Ceremonies).
Rounding out the ensemble are Adrian Sê¢mpetran, Ulrich ReêÈ, Christian Rieger, Klaus Basten, R‹diger Trebes, Kenneth Robertson, Jason A. Smith, Marcel G‹rg, Werner Bind, Ingolf Kumbrink, Jochen Sch‹fer, Elif Aytekin, Laura Rey and Stephanie Hampl.
This Doktor Faust will play its final festival performance July 7. It is scheduled to return to the Nationaltheater in December as part of Bavarian State Opera's 2008-2009 season.
For tickets and information in English, visit Bavarian State Opera
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All photos by Wilfried H‹sl for Bavarian State Opera.