The Damnation Of Faust

The Ex Machina production of The Damnation of Faust premiered in 1999 in Matsumoto, Japan, with conductor Seiji Ozawa. Lead roles were played by Susan Graham (Marguerite), Guiseppe Sabatini (Faust) and José Van Dam (Mephistopheles).

Hector Berlioz’ Faust is a “dramatic legend” that draws freely on Goethe’s play. About to end his life, Faust meets Mephistopheles, who offers him the fountain /elixir of youth. Faust sets off to discover the world with Mephistopheles as his guide. Unimpressed by the temptations of the tavern, his passions are kindled when he meets Marguerite, first in a dream and then in the intimacy of her bedroom. When she is convicted for having caused her mother’s death, Faust sells his soul to Mephistopheles to redeem Marguerite.

The elliptical form of the narrative provides fertile soil for a visual exploration inspired by 19th century imagery. Romanticism, the birth of photography and then of moving pictures become the pretext for a giant picture-book populated by peasants, soldiers, sylphs and will-o’-the-wisps. The vertical stage design occupies the entire proscenium arch, creating a space ripe for cinematic effect.

For the 2008 revival at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the team is exploring ways of incorporating images that will be animated by the movement of the actors and the voices of the singers: interactive video at the beck and call of lyric song.

Robert Lepage describes his use of innovative projections and other technology to tell the timeless Faust story in Berlioz’s magnificent operatic version.