[Met Performance] CID:333318
Metropolitan Opera Premiere
Doktor Faust {1} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/08/2001.

(Debuts: Stephen Morscheck, Gary Rideout, Rafael Suarez, Guy Renard, Philippe Auguin, Peter Mussbach, Erich Wonder, Andrea Schmidt-Futterer, Konrad Lindenberg
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 8, 2001
Metropolitan Opera Premiere


DOKTOR FAUST [1]
Busoni-Busoni/Jarnach

Doktor Faust..............Thomas Hampson
Duchess of Parma..........Katarina Dalayman
Mephistopheles............Robert Brubaker
Duke of Parma.............David Kuebler
Wagner....................Peter Rose
Soldier...................Mark Oswald
Master of Ceremonies......Peter Rose
Lieutenant................Gary Rideout [Debut]
Theologian................Stephen Morscheck
Jurist....................LeRoy Lehr
Natural Philosopher.......Alfred Walker
Spirit Voice: Gravis......Richard Vernon
Spirit Voice: Levis.......Stephen Morscheck [Debut]
Spirit Voice: Asmodus.....Kamel Boutros
Spirit Voice: Beelzebub...Mark Schowalter
Spirit Voice: Megäros.....Eric Cutler
Three Students from Cracow: Rafael Suarez [Debut], Alfred Walker, Richard Vernon
Three Voices from on High: Andrea Trebnik, Maria Zifchak, Ellen Rabiner
Five Students from Wittenberg: Eric Cutler, Tim Willson, Richard Hobson,
Guy Renard [Debut], Bernard Fitch

Conductor.................Philippe Auguin [Debut]

Production................Peter Mussbach [Debut]
Set designer..............Erich Wonder [Debut]
Costume designer..........Andrea Schmidt-Futterer [Debut]
Lighting designer.........Konrad Lindenberg [Debut]

Doktor Faust received six performances this season.

Production a gift of Alberto Vilar

Review of Cecilia Porter in the Washington Post

A Vivid Take on Busoni's Anxious "Faust"

NEW YORK -The story of Faust, the medieval German professor of black magic who makes a pact with the Devil, has drawn many of the world's greatest composers, including Schumann, Berlioz, Liszt and Mahler.

On Monday night a new production of Ferruccio Busoni's darkly metaphysical "Doktor Faust," his last and most important opera, opened at the Metropolitan Opera with the prominent American baritone Thomas Hampson in the title role. Hampson starred in this production's premiere at the Salzburg Festival in 1999, a co-production with the Met as conceived by stage director Peter Mussbach.

The Met's longtime artistic director James Levine was to conduct "Faust"-one of the highlights of the company's current season. But illness forced Levine to step aside at the last minute, and the French conductor Philippe Auguin took the helm.

The Met-Salzburg version of "Faust" sheds welcome new light on the work of an Italian German composer known chiefly for his fanciful yet compelling reconstructions of J.S. Bach's music and for his radical essays on music aesthetics. Busoni viewed "Faust" as a call for a universal vision to stem the confusion and despair that gripped Europe after World War I. Long absorbed with the Faust theme, Busoni claimed personal identification with Faust's striving nature and was even dubbed an insurrectionary futurist by contemporaries.

Mussbach's phantasmagorical production presents Busoni's view of Faust's journey as a virtual experience, acted out in his imagination rather than in the real world. This approach - extravagantly spelled out in the illusionary gilded dress of the Duke and Duchess of Parma -generally suits Busoni's score, which leapfrogs from one orchestral episode to the next.
The orchestration owes much to the lush tapestries of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. It contains harsh, tonally vacillating arias of the anxiety-ridden Faust and ironic choral parodies of Bach's lean linearity. In its juxtaposition of sound masses and emotional use of instrumental colors, Busoni's large-scale orchestration continually underscores the life-or-death struggle acted out on the stage.

Mussbach's creation is one of opposites, of either-or, a vivid realization of Faust's predicament. The staging, sets and costumes match the plot's symbolic darkness and light. White is starkly pitted against black in Konrad Lindenberg's lighting and the staging of crowd scenes. Andrea Schmidt- Rutterer's costumes even translate the contrasts into modem trench coats set against medieval armor.

Busoni crafted his own libretto, basing it more on legendary Faust lore and Renaissance puppet plays than on Goethe's classic drama. The composer constructed a plot that is as elliptical, convoluted and unfathomable as the music he composed for it. The libretto often jumps from one scene to the next, leaving the audience to guess at the missing links. Busoni, for example, omitted the critical dramatic event preceding Faust's initial decision to accept a book of black magic. In the traditional account, Faust had dishonored a woman. In Busoni's version, the woman never appears, but her vengeful brother emerges - explained - and is killed by Faust.

Conductor Auguin's exactitude and rhythmic energy propelled the performance from start to finish, bridging some of the gaps Busoni left in the traditional story. Apart from a few rough edges, the orchestra gave Auguin its best.

But it was the artistry and commanding presence of Hampson that made this production one to remember. Hampson seems to tower above everything else, even when he turns his back to the audience. With his immense vocal scope he easily moves from one timbre to another, as he did to articulate Faust's agony. Tenor Robert Brubaker as Mephistopheles brought fervor and strength to his fiendish task. Soprano Katarina Dalayman as the Duchess paired resonance with gusto. Bass Peter Rose and David Kuebler deserve high marks in their critical supporting roles.

Busoni died in 1924 without finishing the final two scenes of "Faust." The Met-Salzburg production is based on the conclusion provided by his student Philipp Jarnach for its Dresden premiere in 1925. Despite the unorthodox approach to this famous story, Busoni's opera is a powerful work and the Met's daring production captures its magic.



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