Faust and Mephistopheles. Painting by Anton Kaulbach, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. I first discovered opera in 1991, when my tenth-grade English teacher killed a couple of class periods by showing the movie Amadeus . The bits it contained of The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni were seductive enough to send me to the nearest outpost of the Wherehouse, a California record-store chain, where the classical and opera section was an afterthought. When I compare it to the contemporary infinity of Spotify, however, the limited selection now seems a kind of blessing: with so little to choose from, it was impossible to feel overwhelmed. It was also an advantage not to have anyone telling me which operas were great and which were passé. Not until much later, for instance, would I learn that by the nineties, Gounod's Faust was already a century past its prime. It debuted in Paris in 1859 and quickly became a worldwide hit, especially in the U.S., where it was chosen to inaugurate the newly founded Metropolitan Opera in 1883. But in time, Faust 's blockbuster status made it a byword for middlebrow entertainment, a bit like The Phantom of the Opera today. When Edith Wharton set the first chapter of The Age of Innocence at a performance of Faust , it was a way of critiquing the provincialism of 1870s New York from the vantage point of 1920. For instance, Wharton pokes fun at the fact that the opera, originally written in French, is sung in Italian, the language Americans were used to hearing in the opera house at the time. The novel opens with the main characters watching the passionate love duet at the end of act 3, in which Marguerite, a virtuous young woman, is seduced by Faust, a middle-aged scholar who has sold his soul to the devil. As he begs to “caress your beauty,” she plays a game of “he loves me, he loves me not,” picking petals off a flower. It is a sign of Marguerite's childlike innocence but also of her ambivalence: she has already fallen in love with […]
Click here to view original page at Faust and the Risk of Desire
© 2023, wcadmin. ©2023. All rights reserved, Writers Critique, LLC Unless otherwise noted, all posts remain copyright of their respective authors.