Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Scenes from Goethe’s “Faust” (1844 - 1853)
As a fitting culmination of this season, we present the New Zealand premiere of Schumann’s Faust - one of the most astonishing works of the 19th century. It combines the choral weight of that genre with the dramatic power and grandeur of opera and the intimacy and thought of Lieder. It’s mammoth proportions are mirrored by the forces required for performance, including two choirs, and nine soloists!
Goethe’s epic drama inspired a number of composers. Schumann’s version is a unique hybrid cantata / tone poem / oratorio that presents the most striking scenes in a loose formation. The music may be unfamiliar, but the emotional impact is immediate and Schumann’s vocal writing is gorgeous. After a restless overture, Part One is the most operatic section, focusing on the relationship between Faust and Gretchen, including a carefree love duet that hardly hints at the trials they will endure. The second part has Faust’s terrible bargain with the devil, Mephistopheles, and Faust’s death. The dramatic third part leads to the redemption of Faust, when his soul is flown up to heaven by angelic hosts. In between there’s a world of nature, of the struggle between good and evil and Faust’s search for enlightenment.