“Le veau d’or” from Faust
Gounod’s five act opera, Faust, is based upon the three-part tragedy, Faust, by Göthe. It is set around the sixteenth century in Germany. When Faust premiered in 1859, it was not an immediate success. Due to low ticket sales, the producer gave away tickets and deemed the performances sold out. When the public heard the performances were sold out, this interested them and made them purchase tickets. After the public began seeing the opera, it became an instant success.
In the opera, the title character, Faust, longs for youth and makes a deal with Méphistophélès, the devil. This aria occurs in the midst of a town celebration, Méphistophélès begins singing of greed and gold and how susceptible men are to both. Its driving rhythmic patterns evoke a sense of tension, which is a characteristic of Méphistophélès. The refrain repeats that Satan leads the dance, adding to Méphistophélès’s ability to influence the minds and ways of all people.
Schumann’s songs are not recalled to be as smooth and leagato as that of Der Sandmann. Schumann composed the music to fit exactly to the text, of children sprinkling sand in their eyes to help them sleep. This is felt with the staccato being played with the flowing sixteenth notes of the bass. The second verse was not in the original composition. Schumann decided to take the last lines of the lyrics and create a second verse using those lyrics at the beginning. He felt that the song needed more of a closure.
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