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date: 17 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Beginning with Charles Gounod’s lifelong interest in Goethe’s Faust, this chapter explores the genesis of the composer’s collaboration with his librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carré and the circumstances leading to the opera Faust’s 1859 premiere at the Théâtre-Lyrique. It discusses the opera’s transformation from a semi-character opéra-comique-type work with spoken dialogue to a full-fledged through-composed opera, with various additions and changes that make it difficult to speak of a “definitive” version. The libretto, while indebted to the French melodrama tradition, shows that the authors were eager to remain as faithful to Goethe as the nature and conventions of the genre allowed. The result is an admittedly hybrid work, where both Faust and Mephistopheles inevitably emerge as somewhat trivialized, while secondary characters are vividly portrayed and the figure of Marguerite transmutes as the emotional core, which makes her, vocally and dramatically, one of the memorable figures in nineteenth-century opera.

Keywords: Faust, Goethe, Charles Gounod, opera, Jules Barbier, Michel Carré

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