Saturday, November 19, 2011


Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 20th of November 2011 at 3.03 - 6.15 pm

BUSONI: Doktor Faust, an opera in two prologues,
two intermezzi, three scenes and an epilogue
Poet.............................. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Doktor Faust................. Dietrich Henschel
Wagner......................... Markus Hollop
Mephistopheles............. Kim Begley
Duke of Parma.............. Torsten Kerl
Duchess of Parma......... Eva Jenis
Master of Ceremonies... Markus Hollop
Soldier.......................... Detlef Roth
Natural Philosopher....... William Dazeley
Geneva Grand Theatre Chorus,
Lyon National Opera Chorus & Orch/
Kent Nagano (Erato 3984 25501)


Yet another operatic rendering of the Faust legend, and one that is certainly not as well known as the versions of Berlioz and Gounod (French), and Boito (Italian).
     Ferruccio Busoni is the composer, born in Empoli (Italy) in 1866, died in Berlin in 1934. He was Italian by birth, but Teutonic in his upbringing; he aspired to be Italy's Wagner, but found that the German language came to him more easily. Like Wagner he wrote his own librettos, all four of them in German: Die Brautwahl, Turandot, Arlecchino, Doktor Faust). The middle two were premiered together in Z├╝rich in 1917. Turandot is a comic opera, would you believe?  Arlecchino is described as a theatrical caprice; this is the only work of Busoni that O have on a recording (HMV Long play ALP 1223); it was discarded by our local library, and I pounced on it, for a price. In our video opera group we have been playing Rossini's Barber of Seville recently, and it mentions the 17th century comedy L'Inutile Precauzione (The useless precaution), and this play inspired Busoni when he saw it in Bologna in 1912. The Barber is in the style of commedia dell'arte, with Count Almaviva as Harlequin. In Arlecchino Harlequin is neglecting his wife Columbina in favour of a tailor's wife (in this respect he is like the Count in The Marriage of Figaro).
    Doktor Faust is not taken from Goethe's Faust, but from puppet theatre (and also Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus), according to the prologue in which the poet speaks. In this respect, notice that in this recording Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has that speaking role, but in an earlier recording he sang the baritone role of Faust.
    Busoni died before the work was completed; the task was taken in hand by Philipp Jarnach; later sketches by Busoni were used by Antony Beaumont to provide a completion that was closer to the composer's intentions. This recording has the final scene according to Beaumont, but also includes the Jarnach version (whether we will get both on the radio remains to be seen, or heard).
    The New York Metropera has staged it (in 2000) so we get introductory notes from their valuable archives.

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