Charles Gounod


by Charles Gounod
Opera in five acts
Libretto by Jules Barbier und Michel Carré
in French
In the middle of the 19th Century, people in Europe were fascinated by the Faust legend. Charles Gounod followed the drift and composed an opera that focused on the love story between Faust and Gretchen. In Gounod’s opera, Faust is not so much a scientist meditating about the human capacity for insight but a lonesome man searching for love. Thanks to ravishing melodies and gorgeous parts for the chorus, the opera became an instant success in Germany as well as in France.
I.-III. Act: 1 hrs 40 min
Intermission: 30 min
IV. und V. Act: 1 hrs 10 min
World premiere
1859 in Paris

This production's premiere

Back on stage
7 June 2020
Recommended age
from grade 8
Part 1
Weary, lonely, and sad, the aged Faust tries to take his life, without success. Enraged by his own fear of death, he summons the Devil. Méphistophélès appears and offers him fortune and fame, but Faust declines: he wants his youth back, with all its passions. Méphistophélès promises to grant his wish in return for his eternal servitude »down there.« When Faust hesitates, Marguerite appears before him. Fascinated by her, he agrees to the pact and becomes a young man again.

Among a band of carousing soldiers, Valentin prays for his sister Marguerite and hopes that her medallion will bring him luck in the coming battle. Wagner has just launched into a merry tune when Méphistophélès pushes his way into the group and, unasked, predicts that Wagner will be killed in the battle. He also prophesies disaster for Valentin and Siébel, who is in love with Marguerite. When Méphistophélès mentions her name, Valentin attacks him and eventually chases him off with an improvised cross.
Faust encounters Marguerite and speaks to her. She runs away from him, which only piques his interest more.
Siébel picks flowers for Marguerite, planning to confess his love to her at last.

Méphistophélès leaves Faust in front of Marguerite’s house and goes off to procure precious gifts for her. Alone, Faust begins to doubt whether he should persist in his efforts, but Méphistophélès returns with the presents and hides with Faust.
Marguerite tries not to think about the young man who addressed her. When she finds the gifts, she is excited. Her neighbor Marthe encourages her to accept the jewelry.

Faust and Méphistophélès approach and engage the women in conversation. While Marthe and Méphistophélès soon part, Faust and Marguerite begin to get closer. As Faust grows more demanding, Marguerite runs away; Méphistophélès urges him to follow her.
Part 2
Faust has abandoned Marguerite. Ridiculed and forlorn, she longs for his return. Siébel comforts her, assuring her that he now wishes only to stand by her side as a friend.
Wagner has fallen in battle; the other soldiers return victorious. Valentin presses Siébel, who responds evasively to all of Valentin’s questions about Marguerite. Valentin rushes off.

Faust wants to see Marguerite again, yet he hesitates to make contact. Méphistophélès provokes Valentin with a bawdy serenade. Indignant, Valentin throws away the medallion Marguerite gave him. He challenges Faust to a duel and is fatally stabbed. The dying Valentin curses his sister in front of the townspeople.
Marguerite asks God for forgiveness but is answered only by Méphistophélès, who reinforces her feelings of guilt. A church choir sings of Judgment Day.

Faust and Méphistophélès are seen among witches and ghostly lights. Méphistophélès is visibly at ease, but Faust longs for Marguerite and at last hurries off to her.

Faust finds Marguerite in jail; she has killed their child. Together, they remember how their relationship began. Both declare their love, but Marguerite is unwilling to leave with Faust. She bids farewell.
Voices from on high recall Christ’s resurrection.