SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL
A trade with the Devil. The ageing Faust sells his soul for another lifetime in which to live and love. But the Devil always wins. Marguerite, the object of Faust’s desire, is borne to heaven. Faust’s destiny is Hell.
Gounod’s 1859 opera is a pearl of the 19th-century French repertoire, from a time when the Opéra in Paris insisted on lavish, spectacular productions. Among its most famous moments are the evergreen Jewel Song and the Soldiers’ Chorus.
Jack Furness (“brilliant and bold,” The Guardian) directs one of the world’s most manipulative love stories, with the prize-winning young American tenor Duke Kim in the title role, and riveting Irish soprano Jennifer Davis as Marguerite.
Running time 3 hours and 20 minutes including interval after Act III.
Sung in French with English surtitles.
Faust… In Focus
A free online introduction to the opera by Michael Lee.
Thursday 28 September 7pm.
Join the conversation online with #INOFaust
Faust is part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.
“Best of all was Duke Kim. The young singer possesses a vibrant high tenor . . . His singing throughout was terrific—unerringly rich in tone and expressively detailed . . .” - Chicago Classical Review
“Few things in theatre are more exciting than watching a star being born, and the big-bang roar that greeted Jennifer Davis’s curtain call after her debut as Lohengrin’s beloved Elsa was one such magic moment.” - The Telegraph
“formidable . . . both physically and vocally, quick to anger but also able to channel that intensity into strategic, cool-headed composure.” - Opera, on bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee
“Elaine Kelly is a discovery, tracing the musical lines with exactitude.” - Los Angeles Times
Cast and Creative Team
|Nick Dunning||Faust (old)|
|Gemma Ní Bhriain||Siébel|
|Colette McGahon||Marthe Schwerlein|
|Irish National Opera Orchestra|
|Irish National Opera Chorus|
|Francis O'Connor||Set & Costume Designer|
|Sarah Jane Shiels||Lighting Designer|
|Caroline Moreau||Language Coach|
|John King||Assistant Director|
|Richard McGrath||Chorus Director|
This SeasonFaust, La bohème
Gemma Ní Bhriain
This SeasonFaust, L’Olimpiade
This SeasonFaust, La bohème, La traviata
Sarah Jane Shiels
Dejected and disillusioned with how he has spent his life, old Faust resolves to die by drinking poison. Cursing God and Nature, he cries out to the Devil, who appears before him in the form of the demon Méphistophélès. Méphistophélès offers him gold, glory and power; Faust responds that his true desire contains them all. Faust wishes for youth. Méphistophélès can grant Faust’s wish, but in exchange for Méphistophélès’s services on earth, Faust must later act as Méphistophélès’s servant in hell. Méphistophélès draws up a contract and when Faust falters, Méphistophélès conjures a vision of a young woman, Marguerite. Faust is transfixed, and signs the contract. Upon drinking a potion, he is transformed into a young man.
Marguerite’s brother, Valentin, is leaving for war. He confesses his fears for his sister, who will have no one to watch over her in his absence, as their mother has died. His comrade, Wagner, leads the men in a drinking song, but is interrupted by Méphistophélès, who has a song of his own to share. He reads the fortunes of the men, telling Wagner that he will be killed while mounting an assault, and the young Siébel that he will be cursed to have flowers wither at his touch. When Méphistophélès angers Valentin by repeatedly mentioning Marguerite, the soldier draws his sword, only to have it break, as if by magic, in his hands. Valentin holds the pieces of the blade together to form a cross, with which he holds the demon at bay. Méphistophélès leads Faust to Marguerite. They have a brief encounter. He offers her his arm, which she shyly refuses.
Siébel tries to leave flowers for Marguerite, with whom he is besotted, only to find that Méphistophélès’ prophecy has come true: they wither in his hands. He overcomes the curse by dipping his hands in holy water. Seeing the flowers, Méphistophélès upstages Siébel’s gift with a gift of his own for Faust to give her: a jewellery box containing treasures beyond anything Marguerite has seen in her dreams. When Marguerite discovers the box she puts on the jewellery and is entranced by her own appearance. Delighted that the seduction has worked, Méphistophélès flirts with Marguerite’s confidant Marthe, distracting her so that Faust can gain access to Marguerite. She is reticent at first, but when Méphistophélès conjures up a flower garden for her, she is overwhelmed and gives in to Faust’s advances.
Months have passed. Marguerite has become pregnant, given birth, and been abandoned by Faust. Sad and alone with the baby, she is visited by Siébel who remains loyal to her, unlike the others in her circle. Siébel insists that he now loves her only as a friend. She goes to the church to pray for her baby. Once there, Méphistophélès and a chorus of demons intervene and tell her she is destined for hell. She collapses in terror. Meanwhile, the surviving soldiers return from war. Wagner has been killed, as predicted. Valentin arrives home and encounters a worried Siébel outside Marguerite’s house. He enters, and discovers his sister’s baby. Against Méphitophélès’ advice, Faust has returned to the house, hoping to reunite with Marguerite, wracked with guilt for abandoning her. The demon perverts this by singing a grotesque serenade. Valentin comes outside and challenges Faust to a duel. With Méphistophélès’s intervention, Faust mortally wounds Valentin. Marguerite returns from the church to discover her brother dying in the street. With his final words, he rejects and curses his sister.
Méphistophélès introduces Faust to Walpurgis Night – the witches’ sabbath – and shows him a nightmarish tableau. Summoning the “Queens and Courtesans of Antiquity,” Méphistophélès encourages Faust to seek solace in the oblivion of ecstasy. Just as Faust is succumbing, he sees a vision of Marguerite, jolting him out of his stupor. He rushes to a prison where she is being held for the crime of infanticide. She is very unwell, her mind having been broken by grief and shame. Stealing the keys from the jailor, Méphistophélès gains access to the cell for Faust. Despite her mental state, she recognises Faust and recalls their first meetings, but becomes distressed when she sees Méphistophélès. She dies. Méphistophélès condemns her soul to hell, but a heavenly choir declares that she has been saved. Alone with Méphistophélès and forced to face the consequences of all he has done, Faust awaits hell.