Goethe's story of Faust's pact with the Devil has inspired countless works in art, and music is no exception. Outstanding in opera are the compositions of Charles Gounod and of his fellow French composer Hector Berlioz, and it is the latter's gigantic work that opens this year's Glyndebourne Festival Opera.
La Damnation de Faust was first performed at the Opera Comique in Paris in 1846, and is being staged for the first time at Glyndebourne by Richard Jones, whose new production of Janacek's Kat'a Kabanova has impressed audiences and critics at the Royal Opera House.
Ashley Riches makes his Glyndebourne debut as the student Brander, in La Damnation de Faust
In a strong, British-led cast, baritone Christopher Purves sings the role of devilish Méphistophélès. It is the wonderful tenor Allan Clayton whom he persuades to live, when his character, Faust, is thinking of ending it all. (But why would he, with a voice like that?!) Success, renewed youth and love could be his, as long as Méphistophélès can claim his soul at his chosen moment.
There is hope for Marguerite, the woman he loves, a ravishingly lovely role sung by French-Canadian mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne. But naturally, Faust comes to a sticky end.
That's what comes of falling for false promises by self-serving liars, goes the moral of the tale, which never dates.
In this promising new production, Robin Ticciati conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Movement is by Sarah Fahie,with sets by Hyemi Shin, costumes by Nicky Gillibrand and lighting by Andreas Fuchs.
Listen out for fast-rising bass-baritone Ashley Riches, who made a wonderful Don Giovanni at Opera Holland Park in 2017, making his Glyndebourne debut. And stand by for spectacle aplenty, and some of the splashiest orchestral sounds in the repertoire.
'La Damnation de Faust' is sung in French with English surtitles. General booking goes on sale 6PM, Sunday 3 March.
|What||La Damnation de Faust, Glyndebourne|
|Where||Glyndebourne, Lewes, East Sussex, BN8 5UU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Victoria (underground)|
18 May 19 – 10 Jul 19, 13 performances; times vary. Running time 3hr 45min, including long dinner interval
|Website||Click here for more information and booking|