17 pages in all: 13 pages of music, 4to (30.9 x 23.7cm), 18-stave paper; 3 leaves with 3 pages of annotated libretto text, with another page containing musical notation, 29.6 x 21cm; the music dated [no place,] 10 January 1988 and 2 September 1990
Written over the course of eleven years (1983-1994), Schnittke's opera was recognised from the beginning as a seminal contribution to twentieth-century music theatre. Described as a 'negative passion' by the composer, and dealing with the elemental forces of of good and evil, it grew out of Schnittke's 1983 cantata 'Seid nüchtern und wachet', which closes the third act. The three lamentations of Faust are placed in the opera in Act II (see 'chapters' 16, 22 and 23). In them the magician gives heart-wringing utterance to the terror he feels at his impending fate. Based on the lamentations contained, respectively, in chapters 63 (entitled 'Doctor Fausti Weheklag, daß er noch in gutem Leben und jungen Tagen sterben müßte'), 64 ('Widerumb ein Klage D. Fausti') and 66 ('Doctor Fausti Weheklag von der hellen, und ihrer unaußsprechlichen Pein und Qual') of the original libretto source - Historia von D. Johann Fausten (Frankfurt: Spies, 1587) - Faust's laments present a fearful crescendo of desperation, which reach a climax in the third of these in which the learned doctor wishes that he were a beast without a soul.
We understand that it was Schnittke's intention to make an independent composition out of the three lamentations, a project that was thwarted by his poor health and untimely death in 1998. In the opera, the first lament is separated from the second by the appearance of Mephistopheles and his partner, who cruelly taunt and mock Faust. What would have been lost by doing away with the suspense of delay created by Mephistopheles and his partner's intervention would undoubtedly have been compensated, in a freestanding treatment of the lamentations alone, by a heightened compression of dramatic expression.
Schnittke's opera was premiered in an abridged form in Hamburg, with Gerd Albrecht conducting the Hamburg State Opera, on 22 June 1995. One victim of this abridgement, which was due to the opera's great length, was the final lamentation, the first half of which was cut, from 'O ich armer Verdammter' to 'mit...Erschreckung der Ohren, Zittern der Hände und Füsse': this music remains unpublished. We understand that the remainder of the autograph score of the opera is in a European private collection.
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