A few weeks back, I caught the later 3/4 of the Met's presentation of La Damnation de Faust on Public TV and I found myself drawn in, not just by the music (and I do enjoy classical very much) but by a story that seemed to be so much more than the more usual 'love gone wrong song' so many operas seem to be. But I didn't really know why; I just knew I needed to see, listen and plainly know more.
I went through the library catalog and found the CD, but the only way to get a DVD was via Inter Library Loan and being that this non-opera isn't as well known or popular as all those ones even people who have never seen opera know of (and hum an aria from), I wasn't sure if it would be a problem. Of course, it wasn't and within a couple weeks, a university library in a nearby town shared this version (I've also got another version with Solti, Chicago Symphony Chorus and Orchestra performing the same piece in its other, non-operatic, concert format to watch next week - also ILL - our tax dollars at work). Unfortunately, these are the only two versions I've found on DVD at present.
And so, by default, this filmed version from the Salzburg Festival 1999 may be the definitive version for many years to come (the Met hasn't released their version on DVD as far as I could tell), but don't let that scare you away. As a relatively simple work regarding the staging, it's amazing how much there is to this piece. It even seems pretty modern for a work completed before 1850 and it's not just the costumes or set design, all simple, elegant though now some costuming might feel a bit trite. I can't promise it will be for anyone, especially you, kind reader, but then again, I almost did not tune in to the Met broadcast since it was "only opera." That would have been a major mistake.
Echoing another review, I too was brought to tears by the shear beauty of this opera. I never imagined that I could connect with an opera and yet, as the final chorus was sung, tears streamed down my cheeks. I don't know why. Maybe, just maybe, the totality of this work reached a part of my soul I didn't know was there. And frankly, that is why opera is opera.
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