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Hector Berlioz: La Damnation de Faust

3.9 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

This live recording was made at the Royal Albert Hall during one of London's famous Promenade Concert seasons in 1989. Sir Georg Solti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a magnificent performance of Berlioz's concert cantata. This feast of Berlioz launched Solti's farewell tour with the orchestra he had directed for twenty years and was described by The Times as "the unsurpassable culmination of two decades of music-making...one that summarized all that has been most admirable about Solti's long reign in Chicago." "Like reading the book by flashes of lightning" was how one writer described the relationship of Berlioz to Goethe in this 'Dramatic Legend' and with soloists of such greatness as that of Sophie Von Otter, Keith Lewis, Jose Van Dam and Peter Rose, lightning is certainly how this new release affects the listener - bright, brilliant and full of excitement.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Georg Solti, Anne Sofie von Otter, Keith Lewis, Jose van Dam, Peter Rose
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, NTSC
  • Language: French (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Arthaus Musik
  • DVD Release Date: January 17, 2006
  • Run Time: 134 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000C1V88U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,387 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) was a revolutionary composer but the nature of his musical upheaval isn't clear until one takes a few facts into consideration. Between 1789 and 1820 France was in a state of perpetual tumult that left her literature and arts in stasis; while from across the channel, young English poets contemplated the French Revolution and new poetic impulses were born. Wordsworth's Preface to his Lyrical Ballads in 1801 is the epochal statement of 19th Century English Romanticism. France still stagnated. The following two facts are stunning: not a single play by Shakespeare was successfully presented in France for the two centuries from his death in 1616 until Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet played at the Odeon theatre in Paris in 1827. Included in the audience of jubilant young Romantics was an enthralled Hector Berlioz. And the music of Beethoven was scarcely known in France until Francois Antoine Habeneck was placed in charge of reorganizing the Conservatory Concerts and presented the first performance of the Eroica Symphony in 1828. Attending that concert was the same soon-to-be ex-medical student, Hector Berlioz. That same year, Berlioz created his arch-Romantic Symphonie fantastique, revolutionizing musical syntax. That he created it ex nihilo in a relatively barren French cultural landscape makes his achievement all the more stupendous. Yet it also contained the seeds for the attendant difficulties and failures of his subsequent work, including La Damnation de Faust. The ground simply had not been properly sown to bear the fruit of Berlioz's genius!

Berlioz had cast Goethe's Faust, in its Gerard de Nerval translation, into 8 dramatic scenes as a youthful enterprise in 1828 which he then sent to Goethe upon its completion.
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Format: DVD
There is a word currently used in the world of opera, Eurotrash, which means an absurd "concept" staging of an opera in which symbolism runs riot, all too often at the expense of the drama and of the acting, let alone the singing. At first, I said Here We Go Again when I began to view the Arthaus Musik DVD edition of Berlioz' <La Damnation de Faust> (10011 018), giving us the 1999 Saltzburger Festspiele production.
First all the negative elements.
The stage contains a gigantic transparent cylinder in and around which most of the action takes place. The backdrop consists of three tiers of arches. The chorus is dressed throughout in loose fitting white outfits that make them look like bakers and they are forever carrying on their backs what looks like the old fashioned milk containers used on dairy farms. (They are supposed to be the holders of man's psyches, you learn if you read the notes.)
Faust is similarly dressed but little by little, he keeps replacing his garments with black pieces identical to Mephisto's. (The two sides of man's personality, you see.) Marguerite has to settle for the same black evening gown throughout. (She has always been devilish? With such symbolism, who can tell?)
The peasants who should be dancing on the green, according to what they themselves are singing, are wearing smoked glasses to see an eclipse of the sun, while later a small group is kicking around a soccer ball to show jollity.
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Format: DVD
I was eagerly looking forward to La Damnation de Faust recorded at the 1999 Salzberg Festival. All indications pointed to a rousing Berlioz event, and musically it was not disappointing at all. Regretably in this case the symbolism overrides the plot, and there is nothing left to appreciate but the music. People in white costumes, playing soccer? The same people moving some indiscript machine around the stage to represent the war machine in the "Hungarian March"? A bald red-headed Mephisto? No dancing in the ballets? In places I closed my eyes and just listened. A decade ago I saw a similar "Damnation of Faust" presented by a Philadelphia opera company, and it was just as mind numbing and illogical as this production. When the Faust story cannot stand on its own, without this constant re-interpretation it will cease to be a classic, and that will never happen. There's nothing wrong with symbolism, unless it gets in the way of the story. Why can't the story be "symbolic friendly" without jerking Faust out of the middle ages into some nebulous environment where it is impossible for the tale to unfolded as it was written? Berlioz never intended this version of Faust to be presented as a staged opera. On his first trip to London the empressario Julien, made an offer for him to convert it into an opera, but that fell through. He would have obviously changed some things had he done so. The technical problems presented by "La Damnation de Faust", especially the Ride to the Abyss make it very difficult to stage effectively, although the Salzberg production did a fair job technically, utilizing a large cylinder where some of the action took place. However, my suggestion is that until someone can do it right, leave the piece alone.Read more ›
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