Hector Berlioz's La Damnation De Faust

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In the series of operatic and instrumental music of the Romantic period based upon Goethe's famous tragedy Faust, a scholar who sold his soul to the devil, Hector Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust holds a special place. His aspiration towards the dramatic, which is reflected in his distinctive symphonic pieces and Requiem, found another way to come to life and embody in a work of art that does not necessarily require a mise-en-scène. Fascinated by the legendary tale, Berlioz composed Huit scènes de Faust (Eight Scenes from Faust) in 1828. Eighteen years later (1846) he rewrote and incorporated them into a "légende dramatique" (dramatic legend) for four solo voices, chorus and orchestra in four parts and twenty scenes, adding some precise but…show more content…
He initially worked on it with Almire Gandonnière, a little-known French writer, but ultimately wrote the majority on his own, "a solution that insured to him and his music the first and final say" (Bloom, 1992: 151). La Damnation de Faust was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 6 December 1846 to a half-empty auditorium. It was received indifferently, and Berlioz later wrote of this failure saying that "nothing in my career wounded me more deeply" (Cairns, 1999: 362). However, it eventually gained critical acclaim and success which never let this monumental work fall into oblivion. Moreover, along with Roméo et Juliette, La Damnation de Faust was proclaimed as the forerunner of Wagner's famous gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art; synthesis of music, verse, and…show more content…
She does not strive to achieve the maximum quality of each tone, but instead she colours each syllable with a different nuance in the interest of providing the audience with the bare meaning beyond the words. Callas transforms psychologically and vocally in order to share Marguerite's tragic fate with us. I think it is the greatest skill an artist can posses – to compel the audience to participate by bringing in their own emotions. Her struggle incrementally intensifies along with the music, to the point where she is simply broken ("Ô caresses de flamme!"), and it becomes strenuous to utter another sound. She profoundly accentuates "Dans ses baisers d'amour!", as if she knows her last sigh signifies her doom. On the other hand, the famous American mezzo-soprano's performance is not as nuanced and dramatic as Callas', and yet she manages to achieve a different kind of emotional intensity with her subtle interpretation. Graham exerts total control over her instrument and she never forces the tone, which results in a warm voice of exceptional flexibility and uniformity in all registers. There is ambiguity regarding her stage presence; an air of chastity and innocence is opposed by the way she reigns over the stage. In the end, her Marguerite is left with a naive glimpse of hope to hold on

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