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date: 17 August 2019

Introduction

Abstract and Keywords

The Introduction to The Oxford Handbook of Faust in Music overviews the theme of the magician Faust and the history of the theme’s musical adaptation. The publication of the Spies Faust Book in 1587, a turning point in early modern culture, lay the ground for generations of adaptations of the Faust theme, including Christopher Marlowe’s tragedy, Doctor Faustus, and the Faust puppet plays that would prove inspirational to the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe but also composers such as Richard Wagner, Ferruccio Busoni, Hanns Eisler, Josef Berg, and Henri Pousseur. At the center of most of the compositions discussed in this book is Goethe’s Faust, a masterwork at once comic and tragic that has inspired a wide range of music. The music discussed here falls into three categories: symphonic, choral, chamber, and solo Faust works; Faust in opera; and Faust in ballet and musical theater.

Keywords: Faust, Goethe, Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus, Richard Wagner, Ferruccio Busoni, Hanns Eisler, Josef Berg, Henri Pousseur, puppet play, opera, ballet

Without music the Faust myth would not have lived on after Goethe. Life, however, means transformation.

—Hans Joachim Kreutzer

The story of Faust, the magical tale that has so intrigued not only European culture but also, increasingly, the world, arose in Germany in the sixteenth century. Today, the identity of the “Faustus” figure remains enigmatic. In the extant documents, the name is associated with necromancy, fortune telling, and disrepute. The documentary evidence for the “historical” Faust(s) is sparse and often unreliable. Palmer and More, in The Sources of the Faust Tradition from Simon Magus to Lessing (1936), cite twenty-four mentions in letters, account books, Luther’s Tischreden, and other writings. These extend from a letter by Johannes Tritheim (1462–1516) in 1507 to the Operae horarum subcisivarum of Philipp Camerarius (1537–1624) published in 1591. All mentions of Faustus as a living person disappear around 1540.1

The oral tradition of Faust took on such fantastic trappings that in 1587 the Lutheran printer Johann Spies (ca. 1540–1623) published the Historia von D. Johann Fausten (History of Doctor John Faustus) by an anonymous author as a warning against the ghastly end awaiting anyone who transgresses the God-given limits of human knowledge. The Historia’s narrative relates a fascinating account of the divinity scholar Faustus’s pact with the devil, his adventures, his magic, and his last year of life. The pact with the devil remains a fairly constant element in subsequent versions of the tale of Faustus. The adventures and conjurings vary a bit more in later works, with Faust’s death and damnation prevailing until Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s (1749–1832) Faust (1808, 1832).

Soon after its publication in Frankfurt, the Historia was translated into English, Dutch, French, and Czech. The earliest surviving English edition was translated by the anonymous “P. F.” and published in London in 1592 under the title The Historie of the Damnable Life, and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus. It was probably circulating in England (p. 2) as early as 1588. The English Faust Book was the basis of Christopher Marlowe’s (1564–93) influential play The Tragicall History of D. Faustus (ca. 1588–89 or ca. 1592), first published in 1604. Note the word “Tragicall” in the title. Marlowe’s Faustus is a more fully developed human personality, and his quest for knowledge leads to tragedy; the hero still perishes at the end, but his intentions are not entirely evil. As the chorus in the epilogue states, “Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight, / And burnèd is Apollo’s laurel bough, / That sometime grew within this learnèd man.”2 Marlowe’s Faustus seeks forbidden knowledge and is punished, but his desire to possess the secrets of the universe has a more sympathetic quality than that of the Historia’s Faustus. Although the Marlovian play is high-minded tragedy, it has plenty of comic scenes, which became an important aspect of the next dramatic incarnations of the Faust story as it traveled back to Germany.

As well as being performed on the boards, the story of Faustus filled the air musically at an early stage in its history. Songs about Faustus conjuring students or silencing peasants were being heard by 1588.3 On February 28, 1589, an English ballad was entered in the Stationers’ Company Register as “A ballad of the life and deathe of Doctor Faustus the great Cunngerer” by “Ric. Iones.”4 Since it has been lost, its relation to “The Judgment of God shewed upon one John Faustus,” entered in the Register in 1674/75, remains unclear. This ballad was sung to the tune of “Fortune My Foe,” which by 1636 had gained the alternative title of “Doctor Faustus.”5

Early modern audiences beheld incarnations of Faustus revealed in stage and marionette adaptations of Marlowe’s tragedy, which itinerant troupes brought to Germany. The comedy of the clowns’ roles was very popular in German towns, and puppeteers emphasized, therefore, comic antics and magic spectacle, which recontextualized the meaning of Faustus’s pursuits.6 Remaining popular to the nineteenth century, the Faust puppet tradition led to a turning point in the history of the legend when Goethe first encountered the Faust story at a puppet show.7 Dramatizations of Faustus were almost driven from the serious German stage but found timely rescuers, most importantly, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–81), and, subsequently, Goethe.

Lessing’s contributions to Briefe, die neueste Literatur betreffend (1759–65) include the “17. Literaturbrief” (“Letter on Literature XVII”) (1759), in which he dismisses Johann Christoph Gottsched’s (1700–66) call for German playwrights to follow the path of the French, and upholds the plays of the English Elizabethans and local traditions as valuable alternatives to classicism. Applauding Doktor Faust (Doctor Faust) as an exemplary work of theatrical genius, Lessing appended a scene from his own Faust drama, depicting Faust and seven spirits. Although Lessing’s initial references to Faust imply a critical perspective toward the theme, reports of his Faust play, which was never published, suggest that he came to reconceive the hero’s fate in terms of redemption instead of damnation.8

Goethe, who knew of the “17. Literaturbrief,” first engaged the Faust story seriously in the early 1770s and gave readings from his Faust in 1775; the draft that became known as the Urfaust, transcribed by Luise von Göchhausen (1752–1807), was not published until 1887. Faust. Ein Fragment (Faust, A Fragment) appeared in 1790, followed by Faust. (p. 3) Eine Tragödie. Erster Teil (Faust, A Tragedy, Part I) in 1808. Goethe appears not to have taken up the Faust project again until the mid-1820s. The third act, Helena, klassisch-romantische Phantasmagorie (Helena. Classical-Romantic Phantasmagoria), was published in 1827. The complete second part of Faust was published after Goethe’s death in 1832. The composition of Faust thus spanned a period of sixty years.

Goethe’s Faust is a profound masterwork with deep philosophical implications and social criticism. Although in some respects satiric of the Age of Reason, Goethe represents Faust as an Enlightenment hero striving to surpass the limitations imposed on him by nature and society. Goethe’s hero sought knowledge but also experience. Faust gives up his life as a scholar because he believes there is more to be known and experienced outside his book-laden study. The pact he makes with Mephistopheles is not for the traditional twenty-four years. It is made in the form of a wager that Faust will never be content with any single moment:

  • Werd’ ich zum Augenblicke sagen:
  • Verweile doch! du bist so schön!
  • Dann magst du mich in Fesseln schlagen,
  • Dann will ich gern zu Grunde gehn!
  • Dann mag die Totenglocke schallen,
  • Dann bist du deines Dienstes frei,
  • Die Uhr mag stehn, der Zeiger fallen,
  • Es sei die Zeit für mich vorbei!
  • (If I should ever say to any moment:
  • Tarry, remain! — you are so fair!
  • then you may lay your fetters on me,
  • then I will gladly be destroyed!
  • Then they can toll the passing bell,
  • your obligations then be ended—
  • the clock may stop, its hand may fall,
  • and time at last for me be over!)9

Mephistopheles is obliged to serve him until that “beautiful” moment arrives. After many years, and many adventures, it is Faust’s constant striving that in the end saves him. His salvation, a major departure from the traditional story, is another point of contention between Goethe and his contemporaries.

Goethe’s other major departure from the Faust tradition was the Gretchen tragedy. Earlier Fausts had encountered women or a spiritual semblance of Helena of Greece, but the Gretchen tragedy in its depth and significance is something of a completely different order. Since Faust I was all that was known of the drama for twenty years, the Romantic generation of the early nineteenth century viewed the Gretchen love story as the vital center of Faust. While the play as a whole is informed by Goethe’s interest in music, the Gretchen tragedy is particularly musical in its use of solo songs, choruses, and dances—all the ingredients for a good opera, but also ample inspiration for other genres.

(p. 4) While not as well known as Goethe’s Faust, Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger’s (1752–1831) Fausts Leben, Thaten und Höllenfahrt (Faustus: His Life, Death, and Doom) (1791) is another memorable, but quite different, incarnation of Faust that has exerted some influence. Fausts Leben is a novel, a “Romance in Prose,”10 though much of it is written in the form of dramatic dialogue. In Klinger’s telling, Faust wagers that he will be able to persuade the devil of the innate goodness of human beings, a wager he loses in the most horrible of ways and forfeits his soul to hell. The somber gruesomeness of Klinger’s Faust story is a stark contrast to the optimism of Goethe’s Faust.

Dissatisfaction with Goethe’s Faust in the first half of the nineteenth century was sometimes vociferous. The 1808 Faust has an inconclusive ending as Faust flees with Mephistopheles, leaving Gretchen to her doom. Even though, when she calls on God, a voice from above announces that she has been redeemed, readers considered the ending tragic. And what had become of Faust himself? It was only in 1832 that Faust’s redemption was revealed at the end of the second part of the play. Many people were outraged that Faust had not been condemned for his sins.

Meanwhile, the Fausts of the puppet plays continued to thrill audiences with exciting spectacles and a typically horrendous end for the hero. Goethe was not the only major thinker in the Faust tradition to succumb to their charm. Nikolaus Lenau (1802–50), Heinrich Heine (1797–1856), and Richard Wagner (1813–83) were among those who recognized the value of the Faust marionette theater.

Over the centuries, then, the Faust legend has appeared in an array of forms, with numerous thematic variations, presenting composers with many options from which to choose as they selected source materials for their Faust compositions.

Part 1: Symphonic, Choral, Chamber, and Solo Faust Works

Before the great operas came into being, the Faust story could be found in realms that tend to be more abstract and philosophical. Songs, piano music, orchestral works, choral works, and cantatas have all had a significant engagement with the Faust story. Table I.1 lists the non-operatic works discussed in part 1 of this book.

The songs sung in Goethe’s “Auerbachs Keller in Leipzig” (“Auerbach’s Wine-Cellar in Leipzig”), especially “Es war eine Ratt’ ” (“Song of the Rat”) and “Es war einmal ein König” (“Song of the Flea”), have been particularly attractive to composers (see Chapter 1). Beginning with Beethoven’s “Aus Göthe’s Faust” (“Flohlied,” “Song of the Flea”) in 1810, these texts have been perennial favorites in settings by Hector Berlioz (1803–69), Wagner, Franz Liszt (1811–86), and Modest Mussorgsky (1839–81), the latter of whose Песня Мефистофеля в погребке Ауэрбаха (Песня о блохе) (“Pesnia Mefistofelia v pogrebke Auerbakha [Pesnia o blokhe]” [Song of Mephistopheles in Auerbach’s Cellar (“Song of the Flea”)]) (1880) is exceptional. Their satire and humor have given these works a permanent place in the repertoire. (p. 5)

Table I.1 Symphonic, Choral, Chamber, and Solo Faust Compositions Discussed in This Book

Composer

Title and Date of Composition (or Publication)

Genre

Faust Source(s)

Ludwig van Beethoven

“Aus Göthe’s Faust,” 1809

Song

Goethe, Faust

Franz Schubert

“Gretchen am Spinnrade,” “Szene aus ‘Faust,’” and “Der König in Thule,” 1814–17

Song

Goethe, Faust

Johann Christoph Kienlen

“Lied der lustigen Gesellen,” [1817]

Song

Goethe, Faust

Conradin Kreutzer

“Recitativo [‘Es war einmal ein König’],” 1820

Song

Goethe, Faust

Anton Heinrich von Radziwill

“Lied des Brander” and “Lied des Mephistopheles,” (1835)

Song

Goethe, Faust

Hector Berlioz

Huit scènes de Faust, 1828–29

La damnation de Faust, 1845–46

Cantata

Cantata

Goethe, Faust

Robert Schumann

Scenen aus Goethe’s Faust, 1844–53

Oratorio

Goethe, Faust

Richard Wagner

Sieben Kompositionen zu Goethes Faust, 1830–31

Eine Faust-Ouvertüre, 1839–40, 1854–55

Song

Overture

Goethe, Faust

Franz Liszt

“Studentenlied, aus Göthes Faust,” 1841–42

“Es war einmal ein König,” 1844/45

Chor der Engel aus Göthe’s Faust IIter Theil, 1849

Eine Faust-Symphonie in drei Charakterbildern (nach Goethe), 1854–57, 1861

Mephisto-Walzer, 1856–61, 1878–81, 1883, 1885

Song

Choral

Symphony

Waltz

Goethe, Faust

Lenau, Faust

Pablo de Sarasate

Souvenirs de Faust, 1864

Nouvelle fantaisie sur Faust, [1874]

Fantasy

Gounod, Faust

Joan Baptista Pujol

Fausto opera de Ch. Gounod: gran fantasía para piano, [1866]

Fantasy

Gounod, Faust

Felip Pedrell i Sabaté

Transcripción de la serenata del Fausto and

Fantasía sobre motivos del Fausto, [1867]

Fausto: rapsodia para piano a cuatro manos sobre motivos de la ópera de Gounod, [1893]

Faust: rapsodia para piano sobre motivos de la ópera de Gounod, [after 1897]

Fantasy

Rhapsody

Gounod, Faust

Modest Mussorgsky

Песня Мефистофеля в погребке Ауэрбаха (Песня о блохе), 1879

Song

Goethe, Faust

Gustav Mahler

Achte Symphonie, 1906–7

Symphony

Goethe, Faust

Igor Stravinsky

Песня о блохе, 1909 (orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Песня о блохе

and Beethoven’s

“Aus Göthe’s Faust”)

Song

Goethe, Faust

Hanns Eisler

Rhapsodie für großes Orchester, 1949

Rhapsody

Goethe, Faust

Alfred Schnittke

Seid nüchtern und wachet, 1982–83

Cantata

Spies, Historia von D. Johann Fausten

(p. 6) Franz Schubert (1797–1828) composed five Faust settings (1814–17), the most well known of which is “Gretchen am Spinnrade” (“Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel”) (1814) (see Chapter 2). The musical genius of Schubert turned this small moment in Faust I into one of the composer’s most profound Lieder. Goethe created the scene as a small window into Gretchen’s state of mind, but in Schubert’s hands it became a highly dramatic scene that is carried beyond the words by the music.

The first well-known large-scale work based on the Faust legend that is not an opera (though it is operatic in style, as seen in the composer’s designation of it as a “dramatic legend”) is by Berlioz (see Chapter 3). His La damnation de Faust (The Damnation of Faust) (1846), based on the earlier Huit scènes de Faust (Eight Scenes from Faust) (1829), made a significant departure from Goethe, as can be seen from the title of the work: while Faust descends to hell, Marguerite experiences a glorious apotheosis in heaven. Berlioz also places Faust in Hungary at the opening of the piece, where he witnesses a rousing display of Hungarian nationalism conveyed by the “Marche hongroise” (“Hungarian March”). Berlioz dedicated La damnation de Faust to Liszt.

Also to mid-century belongs Scenen aus Goethe’s Faust (Scenes from Goethe’s Faust) (1853) by Robert Schumann (1810–56) (see Chapter 4). This project began as an opera in Schumann’s mind but he decided to make it an oratorio. Schumann draws the text for the first part of the oratorio from four Faust I scenes: Faust and Gretchen in the garden (mainly “Garten”[“A Garden”]), Gretchen’s prayer to the Mater dolorosa (“Zwinger” [“By the Ramparts”]), and Gretchen’s scene in the cathedral (“Dom” [“Cathedral”]). The second part draws on three scenes, this time from Faust II: the sunrise and Faust’s monologue from the opening of act 1 (“Anmutige Gegend” [“A Pleasant Landscape”]), the visit of the four gray women in act 5 (“Mitternacht” [“Palace”]), and Faust’s death (“Großer Vorhof des Palasts” [“Palace”]). The third and largest part of the oratorio, (p. 7) “Faust’s Verklärung” (“Faust’s Transfiguration”), is taken from the final scene of Faust II (“Bergschluchten, Wald, Fels” [“Mountain Gorges”]). Schumann’s aim was not to recount Goethe’s story, which was certainly known by audiences in central Germany, but to imbue these dramatic scenes with a lyrical and orchestral halo.

Wagner had an enduring interest in the Faust theme, first shown in Sieben Kompositionen zu Goethes Faust (Seven Compositions on Goethe’s Faust) (1831), which includes “Branders Lied” (“Brander’s Song”) and “Lied des Mephistopheles” (“Song of Mephistopheles”) (see Chapters 1 and 5). Later in the decade, the German composer began his Eine Faust-Ouvertüre (A Faust Overture) (1839–40, revised 1854–55), which he intended as the first movement of a symphony. Expressive of the Faust character, with a hint of the Mephistophelean, the overture is Goethean in origin. Goethe’s concept of the “Ewig-Weibliche” (“Eternal Feminine”), with which Faust II concludes, appears to have been inspirational to a number of Wagner’s works, though he considered Goethe’s hero deficient in various respects. Like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Goethe’s Faust had an indelible impact on the development of Wagner’s music drama.

Liszt dedicated Eine Faust-Symphonie in drei Charakterbildern (nach Goethe) (A Faust Symphony in Three Character Sketches after Goethe), which was premiered in 1857, to Berlioz (see Chapter 6). It is notable that the two great Faustian orchestral incarnations in the middle of the nineteenth century were not by German composers, but rather one French and one Hungarian. Liszt’s Faust-Symphonie is not only a compelling musical masterpiece, but also an example of the deep psychological insight into the Faust story that became a hallmark of twentieth-century thinking about Faust. The Faust-Symphonie takes the form of three character sketches, with that of Faust serving as the first movement. The music suggests that Faust is “redeemed” in the end, but this is not explicit.

Faustian fantasias become popular in Spain following the great success of Charles Gounod’s (1818–93) opera Faust (1859), which was premiered in Barcelona in 1864 (see Chapter 7). Among them, Pablo de Sarasate’s (1844–1908) Nouvelle fantaisie sur Faust (Fantasy on Gounod’s “Faust” for Violin and Orchestra [or Piano]) [1874] is the best known. Joan Baptista Pujol’s (1835–98) Fausto opera de Ch. Gounod: gran fantasía para piano (Faust opera by Ch. Gounod: grand fantasy for piano) [1866] has a fascinating relationship to Marià Fortuny’s evocative painting Fantasía sobre Fausto (Fantasy on Faust) (1866). Felip Pedrell i Sabaté (1841–1922) also wrote Faust fantasies, Transcripción de la serenata del Fausto (Transcription of the serenade of [Gounod’s] Faust) and Fantasía sobre motivos del Fausto (Fantasy on motifs of [Gounod’s] Faust) [1867], as well as two Gounodian rhapsodies.

Like Schumann, Gustav Mahler (1860–1911) employed the final scene of the second part of Goethe’s Faust in the second of two massive movements of his Achte Symphonie (Eighth Symphony), which was composed 1906–7 and premiered in 1910 (see Chapter 8). The first movement is built on the ninth-century Latin hymn “Veni, creator spiritus.” Why these two texts? Mahler does not use them for dramatic effect, though they are dramatic in his setting. He seems to be drawing on the intertextual resonance of (p. 8) the traditions associated with each text. Ending with the “Chorus mysticus” from Faust gives the symphony an air of mysticism that transcends the work’s enormous size.

In the twentieth century, the Faust story became increasingly political. The most powerful political version of the Faust legend is Thomas Mann’s (1875–1955) novel Doktor Faustus (Doctor Faustus) (1947). In this novel, the Faust figure symbolizes Western cultural history in general (especially music) and German history in particular. Mann’s Faust is a composer, based not on Goethe but the 1587 Historia. Mann has much to say about the essential musicality of German culture and the demonic nature of musical creativity. The author’s concern with infusing political allegory into the Faust story would render the novel a landmark in Western literature.

Hanns Eisler (1898–1962) had read Mann’s novel in 1948, the year before he accepted a commission to compose a work for the celebration of Goethe’s bicentennial in the Soviet Occupation Zone, soon to be the German Democratic Republic, in 1949 (see Chapter 9). Intending to set part of the third act of Faust II, Eisler recycled some of his earlier music in the resultant Rhapsodie für großes Orchester (Rhapsody for large orchestra) (1949), with Goethe’s text sung near the start. While his Rhapsodie was well received, his subsequent Faust work, the proposed opera Johann Faustus, did not fare so well. His libretto, published in 1952, drew on several Faust sources, the heart of which were the Faust puppet plays. Eisler also had Mann’s Doktor Faustus in mind as he worked on the piece. With Goethe’s Faust far from central to it, commentators objected to the adaptation choices Eisler had made in his use of Faust legend. The project never progressed beyond the libretto.

A number of composers discussed in this book have taken a personal interest in the Faust story. Alfred Schnittke (1934–98) read Mann’s Doktor Faustus shortly after its publication in German and drew many parallels between himself and Mann’s hero (see Chapter 10). Mann’s Faust figure is a composer, Adrian Leverkühn, who appears to derive his creative powers through a bargain with the devil—at least that is how Leverkühn himself explains it. The novel’s complex portrait of the modern composer is indebted to the work of Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951) and Theodor W. Adorno (1903–69). Leverkühn is Faustian in several respects, including his composition of a Faust cantata, D. Fausti Weheklag (The Lamentation of Doctor Faustus). Deeply inspired by the novel, Schnittke, in turn, composed a Faust cantata, Seid nüchtern und wachet (Be sober and watch) (from the First Epistle of Peter) (1983), and an opera, Historia von D. Johann Fausten, which was premiered in 1995, based on the Spies Faust Book.

Part 2: Faust in Opera

It seems almost inevitable that the Faust story would find its way to the operatic stage. When Goethe and Johann Peter Eckermann (1792–1854) discussed a musical setting of Faust in 1829, Goethe suggested that the music would have to be in the style of Mozart’s (p. 9) Don Giovanni and that Mozart would be the appropriate composer. Don Giovanni had been composed forty-two years before this conversation, and Mozart had been dead for thirty-seven years. Goethe’s musical sensibility was rooted in the eighteenth century, and he did not think of suggesting composers such as Beethoven (who had died two years before). His next suggestion was Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791–1864), seemingly unaware that the German composer was working on Robert le diable at the time. (It was premiered in 1831.)11

In Romantic terms, Goethe’s Faust has many features that lend themselves to operatic adaptation, including “a foredoomed love affair, a hero in conflict with himself, a villain of suave charm and real menace, an aura of the supernatural, and, at the end, a veritable deus ex machina providing salvation.”12 Table I.2 summarizes the operatic Fausts discussed in this book. As can be seen, they are almost all based on the first part of Goethe’s Faust, but interest in the Faust puppet play tradition is also important. It is also noteworthy that, with the exception of Louis Spohr (1784–1859), whose opera in some ways recalls Klinger more than Goethe, a number of major German composers viewed the Faust story not so much as a vehicle for full-scale dramatic settings, but one suited to smaller, more intimate compositions. Large-scale theatrical works were common in France and Italy but still relatively rare until the middle of the nineteenth century in Germany, Der Freischütz (The Freeshooter) (1821), by Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826), which features a demonic bargain, being a notable exception.

It was in a gruesome Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) form that the Faust legend made its first significant appearance on the operatic stage, in Faust by Spohr, with a libretto by Josef Karl Bernard (1780–1850) that draws on a number of sources, including Klinger’s novel and Heinrich von Kleist’s (1777–1811) play Das Käthchen von Heilbronn (1810) (see Chapter 11). Already a noted violinist and composer of concerti, Spohr sought to make a name for himself as an opera composer. The subject of Faust would have been attractive to the audiences of his day, given the plethora of literary Faust incarnations circulating then. Spohr’s Faust was first performed in 1816 as a Romantische Oper (Romantic opera), and in the composer’s revision as a grand opera in 1852. Perhaps the aspect of Spohr’s Faust that has received the most attention is his use of a series of leitmotifs that later influenced Weber and Wagner.

The most successful Faust opera has been Gounod’s Faust (see Chapter 12). Jules Barbier (1825–1901) and Michel Carré’s (1822–72) libretto is based on Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite (Faust and Marguerite) (1850), which, in turn, is based on Faust I. Its focus on the Marguerite story made the opera extremely popular. The Metropolitan Opera in New York opened with it in 1883. Not until World War I did its popularity begin to ebb. On stages today (such as the Royal Opera House, London, 2019), it continues to appeal. The Faust that it portrays is almost overshadowed by the powerful characterization of Méphistophélès. Marguerite’s brother, Valentin, has a prominence in Gounod’s Faust that is far greater than that in Goethe’s Faust. At the end, Marguerite is redeemed by a heavenly decree, as in Goethe’s scene, but Faust kneels and prays, protected by the sword of an angel, much to the consternation of Méphistophélès. (p. 10)

Table I.2 Operatic Faust Compositions Discussed in This Book

Composer

Title and Date of Composition

Librettist(s) and Faust Source(s)

Louis Spohr

Faust (1813)

Josef Karl Bernard

Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger, Fausts  Leben, Thaten und Höllenfahrt

Goethe, Faust

Charles Gounod

Faust (1858–59)

Jules Barbier and Michel Carré Carré, Faust et Marguerite

Arrigo Boito

Mefistofele (1862–68, 1871–81)

Arrigo Boito

Goethe, Faust

Ferruccio Busoni

Doktor Faust (1914–23)

Ferruccio Busoni

Faust puppet plays

Goethe, Faust

Igor Stravinsky

The Rake’s Progress (1947–51)

W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman

Goethe, Faust

Hanns Eisler

Johann Faustus (ca. 1951–52)

(libretto only)

Hanns Eisler

Faust puppet plays

Goethe, Faust

Havergal Brian

Faust (1955–56)

Havergal Brian

Goethe, Faust

Henri Pousseur

Votre Faust (1961–68)

Michel Butor

Goethe, Faust

Faust puppet play

Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Josef Berg

Provizorní předvedení opery Johanes doktor Faust (1965–70)

(chamber opera)

Johanes doktor Faust (1965–70) (grand opera)

Josef Berg

Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Goethe, Faust

Josef Berg

Matěj Kopecký, Doktor Faust

John Adams

Doctor Atomic (2004–5)

Peter Sellars

Goethe, Faust

Mann, Doktor Faustus

Baudelaire, poems

Pascal Dusapin

Faustus, the Last Night

(2005–6)

Pascal Dusapin

Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

(p. 11) Arrigo Boito’s (1842–1918) opera Mefistofele (Mephistopheles) premiered at La Scala in 1868, but it was the revised version, staged in Bologna in 1875, that entered the repertoire (see Chapter 13). The composer drew on his extensive knowledge of the Faust theme in literature and music in adapting Goethe’s Faust for the opera. In the second version, he suppressed some of the irreverence of the first, a Goethean legacy, while tightening the pace. Few changes were made to the eponymous Mefistofele, however, whose power towers over the other characters in the work.

Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924) presents us with a Faust composer of a rather different type, perhaps the most learned of all the Faust composer-poets (see Chapter 14).13 Busoni worked on the music of his Faust opera, Doktor Faust (Doctor Faust), from 1916 to 1923, leaving it unfinished at the time of his death in 1924. His pupil, Philipp Jarnach (1892–1982), completed the work for the first performance in Dresden in 1925. In 1985, another version of the score, completed by composer and musicologist Antony Beaumont (1949–), was premiered in Bologna. Although some glances at Goethe appear now and then, Busoni’s Faust takes as its main point of departure the puppet plays, as the composer makes clear in the prologue addressed by the Poet to the audience. The Poet explains that he considered Merlin and Don Juan as heroes, but finally settled on the resilient puppet-play Faust.

The period immediately following World War II was rich in Faust incarnations. It is no coincidence that Thomas Mann, Eisler, and Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) all spent the war years in southern California. The Rake’s Progress (1951) by Stravinsky, W. H. Auden (1907–73), and Chester Kallman (1921–75) is the story of a Faust-like character inspired by the satirical drawings of William Hogarth (1697–1764) (see Chapter 15). Auden’s versification served as an inspiration for the structure and musical texture of the opera. The hero loves his sweetheart, Anne Trulove, but is corrupted by the devil and life in the big city (eighteenth-century London). Auden and Kallman drew on Goethe’s Faust in the libretto.

For his opera Faust (1955–56), Havergal Brian (1876–1972) created a libretto by condensing Goethe’s Faust I while trying to respect the drama’s philosophic turns (see Chapter 16). This was an ambitious project by any standard, especially one by an English composer writing in German. To Brian, the thought of Germany conjured medieval, Gothic imaginings, yet the “Hexenküche” (“Witch’s Kitchen”) and “Walpurgisnacht” (“Walpurgis Night”) scenes from Goethe’s Faust are not part of his opera, which represents the first part of Goethe’s drama with thirteen solo voices. That Brian’s “musical prose” is also dense has likely played a role in preventing this opera from gaining the popularity that often accrues to Faust musical settings.

In the mid-twentieth century, Faust moved into the avant-garde experimental musical world. Although the hero of Belgian composer Henri Pousseur’s (1929–2009) Votre Faust (Your Faust) (1969), a composer called Henri, might call to mind Mann’s casting of Faust as a composer, Pousseur and his collaborator, French writer Michel Butor (1926–2016), (p. 12) based their “fantaisie variable, genre opéra” (variable fantasy in the operatic genre) on Goethe’s and Marlowe’s versions of the legend, with colorful borrowings from the puppet play tradition, rather than the Faust Book on which Mann centered Leverkühn (see Chapter 17). In this innovative work, which was premiered in Milan in 1969, the Goethean romance is given the iconoclastic twist of a bifurcating storyline, which invites audience participation in determining the heroine’s fate. Votre Faust is also distinctive in the breadth of its musical quotation, which ranges from Monteverdi to Webern. Conceiving of Faust as an “open question,” Pousseur’s adaptation of the myth created new directions for the operatic genre and serialism.

The innovative creative energy of the 1960s is also evident in Czech composer Josef Berg’s (1927–71) grand opera Johanes doktor Faust (Johanes Doctor Faust) (1965–70) (see Chapter 18). Basing his libretto on the Faust puppet play by Matěj Kopecký (1775–1847), Berg wanted to emphasize a folk-like approach to the Faust story, rather than a high-literary one. He composed the opera in parallel with his work on a demythologistically naive chamber opera featuring Faust, Anděl (Angel), and Bohoďábel (God-devil), entitled Provizorní předvedení opery Johanes doktor Faust (The provisional performance of the opera Johanes Doctor Faust) (1965–70), first performed, in part, in 1971. The score of Berg’s grand opera Johanes doktor Faust is suggestive of his humor and his interest in the revival of the madrigal. Left half-scored, upon his early death, the work was completed by Miloslav Ištvan and Miloš Štědroň and premiered in Brno in 1981.

Faust has appeared on the operatic stage in at least two new notable incarnations in the twenty-first century. Featuring a libretto by Peter Sellars (1957–), John Adams’s (1947–) Doctor Atomic (2005), commissioned by the San Francisco Opera, portrays J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904–67) as an American Faust who makes a pact with the military that enables him to assemble a team of the most brilliant scientists of the day to work on the development of the atomic bomb (see Chapter 19). Oppenheimer’s eventual fall from political grace and his troubled conscience over the use of the weapon he and his team constructed parallel those of the pre-Goethe Fausts. In composing the libretto, Sellars used a “montage” technique that recalls Mann’s Doktor Faustus.

French composer Pascal Dusapin’s (1955–) opera Faustus, the Last Night (2006) is a critical commentary on the Faust legend itself (see Chapter 20). The libretto Dusapin wrote for the opera is highly reflexive, giving prominence to Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. The style of the piece reflects a revival of the composer’s earlier interest in speech intonation, associated now with the jester figure Sly. It also recalls the work of Alban Berg, but without the Bergian lack of light humor. The Mephistopheles who counterfeits as a rabbit encapsulates the “atmosphere of kitsch” in this ironic revamping of the Faust legend. (p. 13)

Part 3: Faust in Ballet and Musical Theater

In addition to the operatic tradition, the Faust legend has inspired a significant tradition of intercultural expression in ballet and non-operatic musical theater (see Table I.3). Explicit Fausts are relatively rare on the ballet stage, though there are Faust-like heroes; Schnittke’s ballet Peer Gynt (1986) is a good example. Several ballets appeared around the time of Goethe’s death, one in Copenhagen in 1832 by the Danish ballet master August Bournonville (1805–79), with music composed and arranged by Philip Ludvig Keck (1790–1848), and a second, at the King’s Theatre in London in 1833, choreographed by André-Jean-Jacques Deshayes (1777–1846), with music by Adolphe Adam (1803–56) (p. 14) (see Chapter 21). Although principally based on the first part of Goethe’s Faust, both ballets depart from the source, often in similar ways. Deshayes’s adaptation reflects the French interest in the Faust theme, and also borrows from Bournonville’s.

Table I.3 Faustian Ballets and Musical Theater Discussed in This Book

Composer

Title and Date of Premiere

Genre

Faust Source(s)

Philip Ludvig Keck

Faust (1832)

Ballet

Goethe, Faust

Adolphe Adam

Faust (1833)

Ballet

Goethe, Faust

František Škvor

Doktor Faust (1926)

Ballet

Heine, Der Doktor Faust: ein Tanzpoem

Henry Krips

Faust (1941)

Ballet

Heine, Der Doktor Faust: ein Tanzpoem

Goethe, Faust

Werner Egk

Abraxas (1948)

Ballet

Heine, Der Doktor Faust: ein Tanzpoem

Goethe, Faust

Richard Adler and Jerry Ross

Damn Yankees (1955)

Musical

Goethe, Faust

The Devil and Daniel Webster (film, dir. William Dieterle; story, Stephen Vincent

Benét)

Tom Sankey

The Golden Screw (1966)

Musical

Goethe, Faust

Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Joseph M. Kookoolis and Scott Fagan

Soon (1971)

Musical

Goethe, Faust

Helen Gifford

Regarding Faustus (1983)

Musical

Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Randy Newman

Randy Newman’s Faust (1995)

Musical

Goethe, Faust

In 1846, the German poet Heinrich Heine was commissioned by the London impresario Benjamin Lumley (1811–75) to write a ballet scenario based on the Faust story (see Chapter 22). The result was Der Doktor Faust: ein Tanzpoem (Doctor Faust: A Ballet Poem) (1851). The London staging of Heine’s scenario never materialized, but there were three significant productions in the twentieth century, in Prague (1926), Sydney (1941), and Munich (1948), with music by František Škvor (1898–1970), Henry Krips (1912–87), and Werner Egk (1901–83), respectively. Though he retains some Goethean elements, Heine returns to Spies and the puppet plays, and his devil is feminized as Mephistophela, which is like the name of the character who dispatches Faust at the end of Schnittke’s Faust Cantata.

Faust has had a checkered career in the American popular musical theater. Damn Yankees (1955 on stage [revived in 1994] and a film in 1958) was a successful adaptation of the Faust story for Broadway (see Chapter 23). The story was adapted to the quintessentially American realm of baseball. The Faust character, Joe Boyd, is transformed by Mr. Applegate into a star hitter for the Washington Senators, enabling them to defeat their archrivals, the New York Yankees. In the end, he returns to his ordinary life and the devilish Applegate is defeated. The show is more about the affirmation of middle-class American values of the 1950s than the eternal struggle between good and evil that characterized many earlier Fausts.

There have been several attempts to incorporate Faust into rock genres. Some rock musicals have had limited success, and concept albums such as Randy Newman’s Faust (1995) have sought to relate the Faust story to modern pop culture (see Chapter 24). Tom Sankey’s (1933–2010) Off-Off Broadway musical The Golden Screw (1966) draws on Goethe and Marlowe in its ambivalent look at the commercialization of the arts. The Broadway musical Soon (1971), by Joseph M. Kookoolis (1940–79) and Scott Fagan (1945–), also explores industry and art through a Faustian lens. More explicitly Goethean in inspiration, Randy Newman’s Faust recasts the Faust hero as a student whose love affair with Margaret (Linda Ronstadt in the concept album) adapts the Gretchen tragedy.

Catering to more intellectual circles, Regarding Faustus (1983) by the Australian composer Helen Gifford (1935–) is a multimedia theatrical production that returns to the early modern version of Faust made famous by Marlowe (see Chapter 25). While no attempt is made in this one-act theater piece to reset Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus in the twentieth century, the early modern theme is modernized through the work’s psychological and aesthetic approach. Like a number of other twentieth-century Faust compositions, Gifford’s libretto is a self-conscious assemblage of different works, bringing the Faust theme into dialogue with Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great (ca. 1587), Robert Greene’s (ca. 1558–92) The Honorable Historie of Frier Bacon, and Frier Bongay (ca. 1589), a Shakespeare sonnet, and John Marston’s (ca. 1576–1634) What You Will (1601). In contrast to Marlowe’s devil, Gifford’s Mephistophilis, played by the same singer as Faustus, is (p. 15) a disembodied presence expressed in sound, suggesting the hero’s alter ego. Enhancing the work’s interculturalism, the thunderstick (bull-roarer) twirled over Faustus’s head embodies the totem-god in Australian rites.

Since Goethe, Faust has had a diverse life in almost all genres of music. While it is too early to tell in which directions the rich history of Faust in music may evolve in the twenty-first century, the indications are that the legend will continue to be a source of creative inspiration, as it has been since its beginnings. Faustus began life as a literary and popular culture phenomenon in the sixteenth century, and the early ballad sung in the streets about him at that time was prophetic of the popularity of musical incarnations of the theme in other forms and later centuries. In the sixteenth century, Faustus was used as a didactic story to warn of the evil wiles of the devil. Marlowe made him more human than allegorical. In the Enlightenment, Faust became the archetype of human questing for knowledge and fulfillment. The Romantics saw Faust as a bearer of authentic, non-rational emotions. Faust later came to carry the burden of the effects of two world wars and emerged in the mid-twentieth century as a conveyer of social and individual angst. As powerful as the character of Faust is in Goethe, the Spies and puppet-play Fausts keep recurring. Perhaps that is where we should look to find the enduring influence of the Faust legend.

References

Cerf, Steven R. “The Faust Theme in Twentieth-Century Opera: Lyric Modernism.” Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik 66 (1987): 29–41.Find this resource:

Durrani, Osman. Faust: Icon of Modern Culture. Mountfield: Helm Information, 2004.Find this resource:

Eckermann, Johann Peter. Gespräche mit Goethe in den letzten Jahren seines Lebens. Edited by Fritz Bergemann. Wiesbaden: Insel-Verlag, 1955.Find this resource:

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Faust. Edited by Albrecht Schöne. Vol. 7.1, Sämtliche Werke. Frankfurt: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1994.Find this resource:

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Faust I & II. Edited and translated by Stuart Atkins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. From My Life: Poetry and Truth, Parts One to Three. Edited by Thomas P. Saine and Jeffrey L. Sammons. Translated by Robert R. Heitner. New York: Suhrkamp, 1987.Find this resource:

Jones, John Henry. Introduction to The English Faust Book: A Critical Edition Based on the Text of 1592, edited by John Henry Jones, 1-87. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Klinger, Friedrich Maximilian von. Faustus: His Life, Death, and Doom. A Romance in Prose. Translated by George Borrow. London: W. Kent, 1864.Find this resource:

Kreutzer, Hans Joachim. Faust: Mythos und Musik. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2003.Find this resource:

Lessing, G. E. “Letter on Literature XVII (1759).” In Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, edited by Cyrus Hamlin, 389–93. Translated by Walter Arndt. New York: W. W. Norton, 1976.Find this resource:

Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus: A- and B-Texts (1604, 1616). Edited by David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen. Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Nisbet, Hugh Barr H. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: His Life, Works, and Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Palmer, Philip Mason, and Robert Pattison More. The Sources of the Faust Tradition from Simon Magus to Lessing. New York: Octagon Books, 1978.Find this resource:

A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London; 1554–1640 A.D., vol. 2. Edited by Edward Arber. London: Privately printed, 1875.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) Philip Mason Palmer and Robert Pattison More, The Sources of the Faust Tradition from Simon Magus to Lessing (New York: Octagon Books, 1978), 81–126.

(2.) Christopher Marlowe, “Doctor Faustus, A-Text (1604),” in Doctor Faustus: A- and B-Texts (1604, 1616), ed. David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1993), E. 1–3.

(3.) Osman Durrani, Faust: Icon of Modern Culture (Mountfield: Helm Information, 2004), 244.

(4.) A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London; 1554–1640 A.D., vol. 2, ed. Edward Arber (London: Privately printed, 1875), 516.

(5.) John Henry Jones, introduction to The English Faust Book: A Critical Edition Based on the Text of 1592, ed. John Henry Jones (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 52.

(6.) Palmer and More, Sources of the Faust Tradition, 242–44.

(7.) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, From My Life: Poetry and Truth, Parts One to Three, ed. Thomas P. Saine and Jeffrey L. Sammons, trans. Robert R. Heitner (New York: Suhrkamp, 1987), 306.

(8.) G. E. Lessing, “Letter on Literature XVII (1759),” in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, ed. Cyrus Hamlin, trans. Walter Arndt (New York: W. W. Norton, 1976), 391; Hugh Barr H. Nisbet, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: His Life, Works, and Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 406–8.

(9.) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, ed. Albrecht Schöne, vol. 7.1, Sämtliche Werke (Frankfurt: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1994), 1699–706; Goethe, Faust I & II, ed. and trans. Stuart Atkins (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), 1699–706. Throughout this book, parenthetical F citations give line numbers from these editions, to which related material is referenced.

(10.) Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger, Faustus: His Life, Death, and Doom. A Romance in Prose, trans. George Borrow (London: W. Kent, 1864).

(11.) Johann Peter Eckermann, Gespräche mit Goethe in den letzten Jahren seines Lebens, ed. Fritz Bergemann (Wiesbaden: Insel-Verlag, 1955), 284.

(12.) Steven R. Cerf, “The Faust Theme in Twentieth-Century Opera: Lyric Modernism,” Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik 66 (1987): 29.

(13.) Hans Joachim Kreutzer, Faust: Mythos und Musik (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2003), 136, trans. by the authors.