If you don’t rest up before a performance of Faust, you’ll certainly need a nap afterwards. The opera’s rousing Overture seizes your attention, preparing you for a long, dramatic production. Saturday night’s opera was in French with Romanian surtitles. I speak neither language, but with an understanding of the plot, the magnificent music and operatic voices translated the story and lifted me into the drama!
The performance began at 6:00 p.m. and ended after 10:30. I considered skipping out a few times, but didn’t. It was a busy day, and I didn’t manage my time well, so didn’t have a chance to eat something before the long performance. Food isn’t available during the breaks, and I was hungry and knew all restaurants would close at 9:00 to comply with the covid curfew. After squirming a bit, I found an energy bar in my bag.
It was a low-budget performance, with basic staging and costumes – photography was prohibited. The singers, orchestra, and choir were brilliant! I sat in the center balcony with a fantastic birds-eye stage view. By comparison, I think the acoustics experienced on the lower level are much better.
Considering covid restrictions, the house was amply occupied. Most of the audience was young – 20s and 30s. I’ve noticed the same at Bucharest ballet performances.
Legend of Dr. Faust
The “Legend of Faust dates back to the Middle Ages”. It’s easy to understand why the powerful theme is used by many writers and composers. The legend is “loosely based on the life of Johann Georg Faust, an alchemist and practitioner of necromancy, a form of black magic”. Stories of Faust’s “infamous exploits circulated in the late 16th Century,” and became the inspiration for Christopher Marlowe’s play, The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.
Composer, Librettists, Playwright
Composer – Charles Gounod
Librettist – Jules Barbier
Librettist – Michel Carré
Playwright – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“The most influential interpretation of the Faust legend was written by German playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe fifty years before the Paris premiere of Charles Gounod’s opera.” Presented in five acts, the opera is based on Michael Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite, which, in turn, is based on Goethe’s, Faust, Part One.
“Wolfgang von Goethe’s tragic play, Faust, is considered by many as the greatest work of German literature. It was first published in 1808.”
Faust’s five acts are explained perfectly in an opera guide. Links describing each act are provided below:
Act I – Study Scene
Act II – Kirmesse Scene
Act III – Garden Scene, Love Scene
Act IV – Spinning Wheel Scene, Church Scene, Duel Scene
Act V – Walpurgis Night, Dungeon Scene
Most are familiar with the storyline of Faust, an aging scholar, who sells his soul to the devil to regain his lost youth and vitality. Elements of the story aren’t new, and never seize being relevant. Marguerite is the most tragic character in the opera. Her role is also said to be the most challenging for an opera singer. Even though Marguerite’s soul is saved – the tragedy of her plight in life is sad and disturbing.
“For many people, opera is the ultimate emotionally cathartic experience. Love, despair, grief, fear, betrayal, beauty, nobility: it’s all there.”Opera and Translation”
- Conductor – Frédéric Chaslin
- Wagner (Valentin’s Friend) – Daniel Filipescu Bass
- Dr. Faust (Aging Scholar) – Sergiu Săplăcan Tenor
- Méphistophélès (Devil) – Leonard Bernad Bass
- Valentin (Margareta’s Brother) – Vicențiu Țăranu Baritone
- Margareta (Young Woman) – Crina Zancu Soprano
- Martha (Margareta’s Friend) – Sorana Negrea Mezzo-Soprano
- Siébel (Man in Love with Margareta) – Mihaela Ișpan Soprano
- Bucharest National Opera Orchestra, Choir, and Ballet
“Despite regaining his youth, Faust accomplishes little or nothing of substance, wasting his opportunity with frivolities and indulgences offered up by the demon.”
I’m not sure how the opera was able to run beyond the 9:00 p.m. covid curfew deadline, but all went well during a memorable evening! I’m looking forward to exploring the National Village Museum and experiencing more major Bucharest attractions this week. On Friday, I’m moving to a new apartment.
The apartment I’m staying in now is modern and comfortable, but it’s on the outskirts of central Bucharest. The advertising was a bit deceptive. The new apartment is more centrally located, and the area has interesting Byzantine architecture!