Faust (Spohr)

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Scene from Spohr's "Faust" at the Royal Italian opera. The Illustrated London News Supplement, 31 July 1852

Faust is an opera by the German composer Louis Spohr. The libretto, by Josef Karl Bernard, is based on the legend of Faust; it is not influenced by Goethe's Faust, though Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy had been published in 1808. Instead, Bernard's libretto draws mainly on Faust plays and poems by Friedrich Maximilian Klinger and Heinrich von Kleist.[1] Spohr's Faust is an important work in the history of German Romantic opera.

Performance history[edit]

Spohr had left his court appointment at Gotha and taken up a post in Vienna at the Theater An der Wien, which had recently been purchased by Count Ferdinand Palffy von Erdöd. He composed the opera in less than four months, May to September 1813[2] but had difficulties with count Palffy that interfered with getting it staged in Vienna. Though he took the manuscript score privately to Giacomo Meyerbeer, who played it, with Spohr singing— supplementing his vocal range by whistling— it was not until Carl Maria von Weber took an interest in the score that it received its premiere. Weber conducted the first performance of Faust at the Ständetheater, Prague on 1 September 1816. Meyerbeer introduced it at Berlin.

In its original form, the opera was a Singspiel in two acts. In 1851, Spohr turned the piece into a grand opera in three acts, replacing the spoken dialogue with recitative. This version (in an Italian translation) received its premiere at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden, London on 15 July 1852.[3] A performance was given by the University College Opera at the Bloomsbury Theatre in February 1984.[4] In 1993 the Bielefeld Opera also performed this form of Faust in what was claimed to be the first staged production worldwide since 1931. Conducted by Geoffrey Moull and directed by Matthias Oldag, the opera was given 8 performances and subsequently recorded for CPO.[5]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast
Conductor: Carl Maria von Weber
Faust baritone Johann Nepomuk Schelble
Mephistofeles baritone
Count Hugo tenor
Kunigunde his fiancée soprano Therese Grünbaum
Röschen a young girl soprano
Kaylinger a friend of Faust baritone
Wohlhardt a friend of Faust tenor
Wagner a friend of Faust tenor
Moor a friend of Faust baritone
Franz tenor
Gulf bass
Sycorax a witch soprano
Count Hugo's page spoken role


Faust is torn between his love for the young Röschen and his desire for Kunigunde, the fiancée of Count Hugo. He makes a pact with the devil Mefistofeles which allows him to rescue Kunigunde from the clutches of the evil knight Gulf. Faust obtains a love potion from the witch Sycorax which he gives to Kunigunde during her wedding celebrations. Outraged at the sudden passion his bride shows for Faust, Count Hugo challenges him to a duel. Faust kills Hugo and flees. Meanwhile, Faust's first love, Röschen, drowns herself in despair. Mefistofeles seizes Faust and drags him down to Hell.


  • Faust (1852 revision) Bielefeld Opera, Soloists, Chorus, Bielefeld Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Geoffrey Moull (CPO, 1994).[6]
  • Faust- Soloists (Bo Skovhus, Franz Hawlata, Robert Swensen, Brigitte Wohlfarth, Hillevi Martinpelto, others; Südfunkchor Stuttgart; Rundfunkorchester des SWF Kaiserslautern; Klaus Arp conducting; Capriccio CD label.) (1994) This recording is of the original version.[7][8]


  1. ^ Bernard's libretto draws mainly on Faust plays and poems by Maximilian Klinger and Heinrich von Kleist., in Opera News October 1995 (review of Bielefeld Philharmonic Orchestra recording of the two versions).
  2. ^ Joseph Bennett, excerpts from Spohr's memoirs, "The Great Composers, Sketched by Themselves. No. VII. Spohr (Continued)" The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 21 (August 1, 1880)., pp.394.
  3. ^ A steel engraving of the duel scene was featured on the cover of the Illustrated London News Supplement, 31 July 1852.
  4. ^ Paul Griffiths (24 February 1984). "Faust". The Arts. The Times (61766). London. col f, p. 10.
  5. ^ Theater in Bielefeld 1975-1998, Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld, Redaktion Heidi Wiese, Heiner Bruns, Alexander Gruber, Fritz Stockmeier 1998, ISBN 3-933040-03-5
  6. ^ http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/cpo/detail/-/art/Louis-Spohr-Faust-Version-1852/hnum/6780481
  7. ^ JW (December 1994). "Gramophone Review of Capriccio Faust". Gramophone. London, UK: Haymarket: 138. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  8. ^ OCLC Reference for Capriccio Faust. OCLC 32555844.