Faust burns to find the secret of eternal youth. Still the mechanism of anti-aging eludes him. Enter Mephistopheles. As he tempts and teases with voluptuous visions, Faust sizzles with renewed vigour. Women and hell-raising beckon. Soul-death seems a small price to pay.
In one tantalising vision he encounters Marguerite, a young girl who embodies all of Faust’s lost innocence. He yearns to possess her.
To this end, Faust morphs into a bizarre rakish figure from his Victorian youth. Assisted by Mephistopheles’ machinations, Faust’s seductive campaign begins with jewels. Bathed in luciferic light, Marguerite is dazzled by them. She sings her delight in her famous aria ‘The Jewel Song’.
This is a production filled with contrasts: peasants sing happy songs of summer off-stage whilst Mephistopheles wreaks havoc on-stage; First World War soldiors display a touching camaraderie as they sing Gounod’s hearty drinking song. Meanwhile the frozen certainties of the previous century are beginning to move and crack. Wrongness is all around.
There’s a see-saw of musical contrasts too. The Devil’s choir does not have all the best tunes. The music that accompanies Marguerite’s redemption is Gounod at his most sublime.
There is much to resonate with modern audiences in this Gothic tale of good and evil, duels to the death, curses and redemption.
It’s also music to die for.