Faust Study Guide

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FAUST Charles Gounod STUDY GUIDE OPERA IN FOUR ACTS By Charles François Gounod Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré In French with English SurTitles™ CONDUCTOR  Jonathan Darlington DIRECTOR  François Racine QUEEN ELIZABETH THEATRE April 27 & May 2 at 7:30PM  |  May 5 at 2:00PM DRESS REHEARSAL Thursday, April 25 at 7:00PM OPERA EXPERIENCE Thursday, May 2 at 7:30PM VANCOUVER OPERA FESTIVAL April 27—May 5



VANCOUVER OPERA FESTIVAL: HIGHLIGHTS FOR EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS PARTY ON THE PLAZA Sunday, April 28 – 10AM–5PM Queen Elizabeth Theatre Lobby, šxwƛ̓ exәn Xwtl’a7shn (Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza) Join us for a day of children’s activities and performances, with face painting, musical costumes and the Roaming Diva on stilts. For adults, the Patio Bar opens at noon with live performances all afternoon. Free to the public. The Party on the Plaza takes place rain or shine. FREE

LA CENERENTOLA (RELAXED PERFORMANCE) Thursday, May 2 – 12:30PM Vancouver Playhouse Relaxed performances are designed to be sensitive to and accepting of audiences that are not able to tolerate the usual theatre environment during a live performance. The intent is to “soften” the performance and allow for a more casual environment within the theatre. The approach removes barriers for audience members with sensory processing conditions, autism, learning/ intellectual disabilities or parents with young children. A great opportunity to introduce young people to opera. GROUP SALES AVAILABLE

MUSIC, CEREMONY AND PROTOCOL: INDIGENIZING MUSIC EDUCATION Saturday, May 4 – 12:00PM–3:30PM The Annex Designed for elementary and secondary music teachers, this professional development workshop will provide teachers with a framework to bring Indigenous ways of knowing about music into the classroom. The content will address questions around protocol, reconciliation, and repertoire using contemporary music and art by Indigenous artists, including The Flight of the Hummingbird, as inspiration. $60/$25 STUDENTS* *Includes welcome lunch, workshop, and two tickets to Gounod’s Faust at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Sponsored by Dr. Heather F. Clarke



FAUST Charles Gounod


David Pomeroy


Robert Pomakov


Scott Rumble*


Simone Osborne


Emilia Boteva

With the Vancouver Opera Chorus as students, soldiers, villagers, angels, demons, Cleopatra, Lais, Helen of Troy and others and the Vancouver Opera Orchestra. CHORUS DIRECTOR/ASSISTANT CONDUCTOR

Kinza Tyrrell


Olivier Landreville


Dominique Guindon


Gerald King


Carmen Garcia


Marie Le Bihan/Off Road Hair Design


Parvin Mirhady


Tina Chang


Theresa Tsang


Collette Brown, Emma Hammond


Sarah Jane Pelzer*


Jessica Han


Sarah Jane Pelzer*

*Member of the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artists Program

The performance will last approximately 3 hours. There will be 1 25 minute intermission. First produced at the Theatre-Lyrique, Paris, March 19, 1859. First produced by Vancouver Opera March 4, 1976. Sets and costumes courtesy of L’opéra de Montréal





STUDY GUIDE OBJECTIVES Opera is an art-form that benefits from “spoilers”; the more prepared students are in advance of attending the performance, the deeper and richer their experience will be! This study guide has been designed to be accessible to all teachers regardless of previous experience in music or opera. Teachers are encouraged to adapt the lessons to meet the dynamic needs of their students in music rooms, theatres and classrooms. The lessons are designed to engage students in learning about the opera they will be attending and thinking critically about art and its meaning. How deeply students go into this material will depend on each teacher. However, we do suggest the following as the minimum commitment to preparing for the performance. • Students are familiar with the synopsis and at least one piece of music. • Students can identify the socio-historical context of the opera (when and where it was written). • Students are given the opportunity to reflect on and discuss their response to the performance. The lessons are designed to be either quick or in-depth and for use before the performance and/or after the performance to provide teachers with the ability to tailor lessons to their classrooms. Each lesson also contains an overview, specific objectives and a list of the materials needed for the activity.

CONNECTIONS TO THE CURRICULUM The study guide has been prepared in accordance with the new BC Curriculum and targets secondary classes. Each activity addresses includes specific learning objectives and can be adapted for use in most arts and humanities coursework. Elementary teachers will be able to modify the activities to meet the needs of their students with little difficulty. Throughout the secondary arts education curriculum, the big ideas are connected to the role the arts play in society and in our individual lives. The activities within this study guide address the following themes found within the specific big ideas at each grade level: 1. Dance, drama, music and visual arts are each unique languages for creating art and communicating. 2. The arts are an essential aspect of building community and interpersonal relationships. 3. The arts reflect and respond to the cultures within which they are performed. Creative works are socially constructed and often challenges the status quo. 4. Personal and collective identity is explored, expressed and impacted through arts experiences. These larger concepts can be linked to the big ideas found in the social studies and English/French language arts curriculum. The study guide has also been prepared in consideration of the First People’s Principles of Learning and whenever possible, activities will include resources that address the learning standards related to Indigenous knowledge and education. The study guide for Faust was prepared by Daniel Viragh, PhD and Colleen Maybin, Director Education and Community Engagement.





GETTING READY THREE QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK (AND HAVE ANSWERED) BEFORE COMING TO THE OPERA WHAT IS OPERA? Opera is an interdisciplinary experience in which singers and musicians put on a dramatic production. This means that, just as in musicals, music (sung and instrumental), theatre, and visual art (the set design and creation, as well as costumes and lights) come together to tell a story. Because opera was first popular in Italy, many of the words associated with it are from the Italian language. The word “opera” means “work” in Italian, as in “work of art”. Opera is usually written in the language of the composer and the language of the country it will be heard in. Opera has been around for a while (for a little over four hundred years, in fact!), and therefore opera-singers sing without microphones, which hadn’t yet been developed by the time opera started. Opera singers have developed a special singing technique to be heard over the orchestra without microphones. They sing so loudly that to protect each other’s hearing, they make sure not to face directly towards each other while singing. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO SING OPERA? If you were a top opera singer, you could make as much as $20,000 per performance! And what’s so hard about being an opera singer, you ask? Opera singers often have as many years of training as physicians. They must learn to have a voice powerful enough to project across a full orchestra, yet flexible enough to taper to a soft piano level when it is called for. Singers must also learn English, French, German, and Italian – even Russian and Czech. They must be able to memorize and sing many different operas (which can be up to 4 hours long!), and to dance and act while singing under hot lights. Critics and journalists are not always kind, and singers must also learn to brush off negative reviews in time to perform the same show the following night. HOW DOES AN OPERA GO FROM WORDS AND NOTES ON THE PAGE TO FULLY STAGED PERFORMANCE? The first thing to happen is the assembly of a creative team which includes the music director, stage director, singers, orchestra musicians, and set and costume designers. Everyone works with the score and libretto to prepare for the first rehearsals. Opera singers are expected to arrive at the first rehearsal “off book”, meaning that they must have the entire score memorized in advance. Once the designers have completed their designs, artists and sewers work to create all the props, sets and costumes. Lighting designers work with the stage director to add light and shade to the stage. At first the opera is rehearsed in sections – one scene at a time. During “tech week”, everyone moves into the theatre and all aspects of the opera from the acting to the music to the moving of the sets is practiced over and over again. Finally, opening night arrives. Et voila! There is an opera!






SYNOPSIS ACT I Faust has spent a lifetime in the study of science. Disillusioned with life, he resolves to poison himself. He curses God and calls on the Devil. Méphistophélès obligingly appears and offers Faust riches, power, or glory. Faust, however, only wants to recapture the innocence of youth. Méphistophélès agrees to Faust’s request, but there are conditions: on earth Faust will be master, but in the world below their roles will be reversed. When Faust hesitates, Méphistophélès conjures up a vision of Marguerite. Faust signs the contract and returns to his youth. ACT II Valentin and Wagner are going off to war with the other soldiers, and Valentin is concerned about leaving his sister Marguerite unprotected. Wagner starts a song to cheer everyone up but is interrupted by Méphistophélès. Méphistophélès tells fortunes: Wagner, it seems, will be killed in his first battle. The flowers that Siébel picks will wither, and Valentin will meet his death at the hands of someone close to Méphistophélès. Dissatisfied with the wine on offer, Méphistophélès conjures up a better vintage to toast Marguerite. This angers Valentin and both draw their swords. Valentin strikes out and his blade shatters. Everyone is convinced they are in the presence of the Devil. Méphistophélès leads Faust to a place where couples are dancing. Faust sees Marguerite and offers her his arm. She refuses, but so charmingly that he is left more entranced than before. ACT III Siébel gathers flowers for Marguerite outside her house. As Méphistophélès predicted, they wither, but holy water seems to restore them. Méphistophélès and Faust have been watching, and Méphistophélès leaves a box of jewels for Marguerite. The atmosphere of innocence surrounding Marguerite’s home moves Faust. Marguerite finds the jewels and puts them on. When she looks in the mirror, she sees a different woman and is further confused by the encouragement of her neighbour, Marthe. Faust and Méphistophélès return, and Méphistophélès flirts with Marthe, giving Faust the opportunity to seduce Marguerite. She begins to give in. Méphistophélès conjures up a garden and makes Marthe run off before disappearing himself. Marguerite realizes she loves Faust and they make love. ACT IV Seduced and abandoned, Marguerite is expecting Faust’s child. She is still in love with him and prays for him and their unborn child. The soldiers return with Valentin. Siébel tries to stop him seeing Marguerite but Valentin, suspecting the worst, pushes him aside. Outside her house, Méphistophélès serenades Marguerite on Faust’s behalf. Valentin and Faust fight and, with the intervention of Méphistophélès, Valentin is fatally wounded. Marguerite watches her brother die and hears him curse her with his last breath. Distraught, Marguerite goes to church to pray for forgiveness. When she hears the voice of Méphistophélès telling her that she is damned, she collapses in terror. ACT V Méphistophélès’s help, Faust goes to the prison in an attempt to save Marguerite. She seems to recognize her lover and recalls the night when he first seduced her. Faust is overwhelmed with pity. Marguerite panics at the sight of the Devil and, with a frantic appeal to heaven, she dies. Méphistophélès damns her but angelic voices proclaim she is saved.





ABOUT CHARLES GOUNOD Charles Gounod was born and raised in Paris in the mid 1800s. Like many of his counterparts, he grew up in a musical family: his father was an artist and his mother was a pianist. She was his first piano teacher before he started to attend the Paris Conservatoire where he completed his music education. Gounod was a very spiritual person and was drawn to the sacred music found in the church. He also loved the music of Bach, who he was introduced to by Fanny Mendelssohn – sister of composer Felix Mendelssohn. While Faust is definitely his most famous work, he struggled to find success with a second opera until Romeo and Juliette written in 1867. In 1870, he moved his family to London to avoid the Franco-Prussian war. There he found favour with Queen Victoria and worked as a conductor and pianist while continuing his work as a composer. His time in England ended badly after an affair, resulting in his family returning to Paris. The affair ended very acrimoniously and after four years in London, he returned to Paris. In his later years, he returned to his love of sacred music composing mainly liturgical works. However, he continued to be celebrated as a truly French opera composer with Faust solidly positioned as an example of a style of opera that was unique to France and beloved by audiences. FAUST The libretto for Faust was written by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré based on the play Faust et Marguérite. Carré’s play was itself heavily influenced by the famous rendition of the Faust story written by Goethe. Gounod was also fascinated with Goethe’s text and the opera closely follows the poem. The opera premiered in Paris on March 19, 1859 and was received very well by audiences. The rights to the opera were purchased by a producer for 10,000 francs and then the opera went on tour in Europe. Faust quickly became a very popular opera that was performed very frequently. It was originally written with spoken text between the arias and choruses. Early on, the texts became recitatives and when the opera was performed at Vocent Garden in London, a new aria was added to the fourth act to feature the popular baritone singing the role of Faust. The Covent Garden production was sung in English, so the aria was then translated into French and added into the score. In 1869, a ballet was added into the final act. With the addition of the recitatives and the ballet, Faust was now a ‘grand opera’ and was performed at the Opéra de Paris. The opera was so popular that publishers began printing full and short versions of the score along with piano reductions, songs and printed compilations of the music. Faust was the first opera performed by the Metropolitan Opera in New York City when it opened in 1883 and by 1934, the opera had been performed in Paris over 2000 times. Faust opens with an overture that sets the sentimental tone of the music that follows throughout. Gounod’s score musically illustrates the story. The melodies often follow the text – a large leap down aligns with Méphistophélès speaking about “down below” and shimmering arpeggios accompany Marguerite’s spinning wheel. The music is used to foreshadow the tragic events of the final acts and embellishes the pain experienced by Marguerite. It is this sentimental approach that resonated with audiences and made the opera one of the most performed opera during the 20th century. AN ANCIENT STORY The origins of the story of Faust and his desire for power and success is over 600 years old. Some claim that the story was based on a real person – Johann Georg Faust, a scholar from the 15th century. However, others trace the history of the story back to other ancient texts. The most well-known rendition of the story, Goethe’s poem Faust Part 1, was written in 1806. It is this text that inspired Gounod’s Faust along with many other composers – there are at least 16 different operas based on the story. The story has also been popular with novelists, playwrights, film makers and other artists. The tensions between good and evil, temptation and seduction, remain constant in the human experience ensuring that the story of Faust will continue to resonate with audiences despite its ancient origins.






LESSON ONE: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO! (Listening Activity) Category:

Before Performance/ Quick


In this aria, Marguerite’s interest in her possible admirer is piqued by the sudden appearance of a box of jewels. She tries the jewels on while looking in the mirror and begins to see herself as someone undergoing a metamorphosis. Written for soprano voice, this is one of the most famous arias from Faust.


The objective of this lesson is to ensure students are familiar with music from the opera as well as consider the impact of repeated listening to their understanding of a piece of music.

Materials: • A high-quality recording of “Ah! je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir”   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYlYLU39wEM    This video is from the Royal Opera House and features Angela Gheorghiu, one of the most exciting    sopranos working today.

• Notepaper

• The lyrics in French and/or English

Lesson: 1.  This lesson makes an ideal opening activity for the three or four classes before attending a performance. To    begin, provide students with either the original French lyrics or an English transition. Read through the lyrics    and have students brainstorm about what they think the music will sound like, the singer (male or female?    High or low voice?) What might the costume look like for the singer? 2.  Provide the above context for them and connect the aria to the synopsis. How does that change their    initial answers? 3.  Watch the video a few times through – potentially over one or two classes. Returning to their initial    brainstorming, what can they add to what they know about the music, the voice type, and the character. 4.  Repeat the listening activity at each lesson and encourage the students to add to their list. The questions can    be used again to focus on new aspects of the song. 5.  After the final listening session, lead a discussion on how their understanding and appreciation of the music    changed over time. Did it grow on them? Were they able to anticipate each section? What did they hear at    the end that they didn’t hear at the beginning? How did their thinking about the aria in relation to the story    change over time? 6.  Faust is well over 150 years old. Considering this music through a contemporary lens encourages students    to examine how language and character portrayals have changed over time. What is their personal    response to the lyrics?







Ah! je ris de me voir

Ah! I laugh to see myself

si belle en ce miroir,

so beautiful in this mirror,

Ah! je ris de me voir

Ah! I laugh to see myself

si belle en ce miroir,

so beautiful in this mirror,

Est-ce toi, Marguerite, est-ce toi?

Is it you, Marguerite, is that you?

Réponds-moi, réponds-moi,

Answer me, answer me,

Réponds, réponds, réponds vite!

Respond, respond, respond quickly!

Non! Non! ce nest plus toi!

No! No! That is no longer you!

Non...non, ce nest plus ton visage;

No... no, this is no longer your face;

Cest la fille dun roi;

It is the daughter of a king

Ce nest plus toi,

It is no longer you,

Quon salut au passage!

One must greet her as she passes!

Ah sil était ici!

Ah if only he was here!

Sil me voyait ainsi!

He would see me thus

Comme une demoiselle

Like a lady

Il me trouverait belle, Ah!

He would find me beautiful, Oh

Comme une demoiselle,

Like a lady,

Il me trouverait belle!

He would find me beautiful!

Achevons la métamorphose,

Let us complete my metamorphosis,

Il me tarde encor dessayer

I am late, but I look forward to try on

Le bracelet it le collier!

this bracelet and necklace!

Dieu! cest comme une main,

God! It’s like a hand

Qui sur mon bras se pose! ah! ah!

Which arises on my arm! Ah! Ah

Ah! je ris

Ah! I laugh

de me voir si belle dans ce miroir!

to see myself so beautiful in this mirror






Before & After Performance/In- Depth

Overview: Gounod’s Faust is part of a long tradition of historical texts. Perhaps the most significant ones are Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (c. 1588-1593); Goethe’s Faust (c. 1772-1832); and Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus (1947). Objective:

To compare the different iterations of the Faust legends and prepare students to see the opera.

Materials: • Summaries of the three works above, available at:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Faustus_(novel)   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goethe%27s_Faust   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Faustus_(play) Lesson: 1.  Briefly explain to the students that the character of Doctor Faustus has a long history; ask them to sit in a   circle on the floor and read the synopses on the Wikipedia pages, above. Students can be numbered one   through three, and each can tell the story of a single version to the other people in the class. 2.  Group students so that each group has one student who has read a different text (i.e., each group should   have one student who was a “one,” in the previous activity, one student who was a “two,” and one student   who was a “three”). Ask each group to talk about how the different versions of the story are different and/   or similar.

3.  Have the students compare their answers via a table on the board.

4.  Now ask the students to talk about if they would exchange their souls for any kind of worldly wealth,   riches, or youth. Ask them to impersonate Faust and to write a short, poetic sonnet around whether they   would accept the devil’s bargain or not.

5.  Students can read their poems to the class.

6.  End the class with the following questions:     Why do you think the theme of a “bargain with the devil” has been so popular over the years? Lesson: Encourage students read about Dr. Faustus’s appearance in Marvel Comics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Faustus_(comics)

Students could create their own comic book, or art, based on the bargain with the devil. They could also analyze how popular culture has adapted a character with such a long history. Students could discuss whether this adaptation is successful or not.







After Performance/In Depth


Given its dark subject matter, Gounod’s Faust is uniquely suited for adaptation with respect to the sets and costumes used. This lesson enables students to compare differences between three recent versions of the opera.


Students will compare three different productions of the same scene (“Bière ou vin”) and paint and draw their own ideas for a future presentation.

Materials: •  Coloured pencils, markers and paper •  YouTube clips of two productions: bit.ly/Gounod-Faust-Bastille-2011 bit.ly/Gounod-Faust-Salzburg-2016 • Production photos available at vancouveropera.ca of this production of Faust Lesson: 1.  Create for students, with two columns labeled with SETS and COSTUMES and three rows, one for each   version of the opera, above.

2.  Begin by revisiting the production by Vancouver Opera using the production photos available on the website.

3.  Working in small groups, ask the students to describe the following: A.  What kinds of costumes are the students wearing? Are they contemporary? Are they clothes you    would wear? B.  What kinds of costumes are the soldiers wearing? Do they look like today’s soldiers? C.  What colour is the set? What colours are used in the background? 4.  Show them the Salzburg version next. The students’ and soldiers’ entry is at 26:35 and it goes until 32:09.   Again, ask the students the same three questions. 5.  Notice that in the Salzburg version, the costumes are all alike; that the background is all white; that the set   resembles a big cafeteria.

6.  Have students report on their responses to the class.

7.  Finally, show them the version from Opera Bastille starting at 22:30 and ends at 27:22 and repeat the activity.

8.  Notice that in this version, there is a giant cadaver hanging from the ceiling; that there are coloured streamers   hanging, too; that the entire background is made to resemble a giant library; and that the costumes are   contemporary to the 19th century. 9.  Return to the group discussion. What is their response to the three different production designs? How does it   change the meaning of the scene for them? 10.  Finally, have students design their own versions of the costumes for both students and soldiers, and plot their    ideas for a set! Split the students into four groups and hand out markers and pencils and paper. Ask each    group to draw ideas for: Extension: 9

A.  Costumes for the students B.  Costumes for the soldiers C.  Set background.

Production design relies upon many kinds of artists, designers and builders that bring drawings like the ones created in step ten to life. Set designers, costume designers, and lighting designers work with technicians, artists and crafts people in a highly collaborative environment. Many secondary students are not aware of the potential career possibilities within this work that exist in live production, film, and television. Have students research the training and degree programs that lead to professional careers in production design and identify the related classes in secondary school that would assist them in learning more about this career path. vancouveropera.ca



FURTHER RESOURCES The Metropolitan Opera Guild study guide for Faust includes more detailed listening activities and in depth look at connecting the opera to course work in the humanities. https://www.metguild.org/guild/templates/Utilities.aspx?id=45503&LangType=1033 This website provides another concise overview of Faust. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Faust-opera For more information about Vancouver Opera’s Education Programs for elementary and secondary students, please visit vancouveropera.ca


Courtney Dugan

Director, Education and Community Engagement

Coordinator, Education and Community Programs




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