Hermanis' Damnation of Faust premieres in Opéra Bastille

On Tuesday the premiere of Hector Berlioz's dramatic opera La Damnation de Faust will open. It was directed by Latvia's Alvis Hermanis. Latvian Television on Monday looked at what the opera is about, and what approach Hermanis took in staging it.

Mystical projected backgrounds of Mars leave a futuristic impression right off the bat. In Hermanis' new staging people from different nations apply to leave for another planet, and the screen soon shows a quote by Stephen Hawking - that humanity will not survive unless it escapes Earth.

This is Hermanis' interpretation of the ancient legend of Faustus - a scientist that, having not realized his ambitions, is tempted by the devil, betrays the virginal, pure Margaret, and is subsequently sent to hell. Though in Hermanis' production - he leaves for Mars together with everyone else.

Mephisto is played by British bass Bryn Terfel, while Faust is played by Bryan Hymel, who will split the role with Jonas Kaufmann. 

"This is the story that Faust's music tries revealing, asking questions at the end of one's own life - what was worth anything in life, why did it happen. He reveals how everything goes on, happens again and again, through our children and before them. Space, planets, Mars - it's the whole universe here. From the smallest to the largest. That's what the opera is about. That we're part of it all," said Bryan Hymel.

The apocalyptic atmosphere is received well in the pre-premiere. When asked about whether the recent events in Paris have influenced the staging, Hermanis said: "Not the staging, but it influences the common energy. As I see it, the French are very proud, but everyone's face is worn out, the paranoia is all but palpable. I don't like living in cities where they can open fire on visitors of a cafe, for example. It's not pleasant. Now those in Paris who are sitting in cafe terraces demonstratively, it's almost an act of heroism."

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