New Classics

Charles Gounod’s five act opera Faust was written to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, based on Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite which itself was loosely based on the first part of Goethe’s Faust. The opera debuted at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris in 1859 but was not well-received. Recitatives were added to replace the original spoken dialogue before the opera was successfully revived in Paris in 1862, after which it became the most frequently performed opera at the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra. It also went on to become a staple of the international repertory, despite a full production requiring a large chorus and elaborate sets. Faust was first performed in Italy at La Scala, Milan, in 1862, with an Italian libretto by Achille De Lauzières. The recorded version here follows this edition closely, omitting the ballet scene and with minor cuts in the Waltz, Love Duet and Soldiers’ Chorus as well as in the final scene.

The recording was made by the Gramophone Company’s Milan office over a two-week period in June, 1920, and was originally issued on twenty 12” discs. Though recorded acoustically, these discs were in mint condition and careful restoration has been carried out to avoid digital distortion, providing remarkably good overall sound quality that allows the excellent performances to shine through. The booklet with this double CD contains the Italian libretto as well as a synopsis of each act and biographical details of the main performers, who include Giuliano Romagnoli (Faust), Gemma Bosini (Margherita), Fernando Autori (Mefistofele), Gilda Timitz (Siebel), Napoleone Limonta (Wagner), Adolfo Pacini (Valentino) and Nelda Garrone (Marta). The Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala is conducted by Carlo Sabajno. This is the first time that this important historical recording has appeared on CD and it’s a memorable version of one of the most popular, tuneful and sophisticated operas ever composed.

—John Pitt