Szenen aus Goethes Faust is one of the best kept secrets of romantic music theatre. With his magnum opus, Robert Schumann pays tribute to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Both artists turned Faust and his pact of the devil into a life's work that is both utterly unique and timelessly universal.
Faust is a disenchanted scholar, fruitlessly seeking the deepest truth. In exchange for his soul, Mephistopheles takes him in hand. Redemption awaits in the end, but the route there is an existential rollercoaster of striving, falling and getting back up again and again. Faust, that's us.
Schumann captures the essence of the drama in seven iconic scenes that mercilessly get under the skin. If you want to label this score, you're in for a challenge: like Faust, a roller coaster ride through an unprecedented multi-coloured landscape awaits the listener.
Opera meets oratorio, an orchestral song drifts past polyphonic church music, in the distance a children's chorus is heard. And yet the parts and the whole never lose sight of each other for a moment.
Conductor Philippe Herreweghe calls Szenen aus Goethes Faust nothing less than a masterpiece. According to him, Schumann's theatrical pen requires a visual staging. The work couldn't be in better hands with Julian Rosefeldt, director of films and installations such as Manifesto (2015) with Cate Blanchett. Together with choreographer Femke Gyselinck, he resolutely roots Schumann's Faust in the here and now. The Faustian condition comes to life in all its richness from the counterpoint between video, dance and play: from tragic love to relentless progress and an ultimate transfiguration with cosmic dimensions.
Image: Tim Coppens