Doktor Faust - Synopsis
Faust, looking back on his life, is dissatisfied with what he has achieved so far. He learns from his assistant Wagner that three students wish to see him to give him a remarkable book, Clavis Astartis Magica. Faust has heard of this book and sees the possibility of overcoming his crisis with the help of its magic powers. The students give him the book but ask for no service in return.
At midnight Faust begins to call upon spirits of darkness with the help of the book. He asks five of them how fast they are, but none of their answers satisfy him. He has almost given up hope when he summons Mephistopheles, who is as fast as human thought. Faust tells Mephistopheles about his dreams of magic power and his desire to be a genius. Mephistopheles demands that Faust should serve him for ever if he does his bidding and fulfills his wishes. Faust refuses, but Mephistopheles points out to him that his creditors are at the door and that the clergy and the brother of a girl Faust has seduced are all seeking to kill him. Faust realizes that he is trapped and orders Mephistopheles to murder his adversaries.
Mephistopheles demands that Faust should sign the agreement and he does so.
A soldier, the brother of the girl whom Faust has seduced and driven to her death, is praying in church that God should punish Faust. When asked by Mephistopheles to choose whether he himself or the soldier should die, Faust decides in favour of the latter. Disguised as a monk, Mephistopheles approaches the soldier and tells him that his end is nigh. Soldiers on patrol, looking for the soldier, fall upon him and kill him.
Faust attends the wedding of the Duke of Parma as part of the entertainment. The Duchess is immediately attracted to him. Faust decides to win her heart. He asks the Duchess to pick someone famous from history and promises to have the person appear. The Duchess chooses King Solomon. Faust has him appear with the Queen of Sheba at his side – and she has a look of the Duchess about her. Faust divines what the Duchess would like next and Samson and Delilah appear. He finally conjures up John the Baptist as his alter ego and Salome and the executioner, who resembles the Duke. The Duchess betrays her love by begging that John’s life be spared. Faust provokes a scandal and asks the Duchess to follow him. The jealous Duke ends the performance. Mephistopheles warns Faust not to take his place at the ducal table, saying that the food is poisoned. The Duchess is prepared to elope with Faust. They flee together. Mephistopheles prevents the Duke from following them.
Faust is drinking with students in a tavern, the men are all deeply involved in a philosophical discussion in which Faust unintentionally provokes an argument between Catholics and Protestants. One of the students asks Faust to tell them about his amorous adventures with women. Faust tells them about the Duchess, the most beautiful of all the women who have ever loved him. He wonders whether she ever thinks of him now. At this point Mephistopheles appears and tells him that she has died. He has with him the corpse of a new-born baby which has supposedly just died on the way to the tavern, it is the baby of Faust and the Duchess. To the horror of the company, Mephistopheles reveals that the baby is actually made of straw. Mephistopheles sets fire to the bundle of straw and summons the vision of Helen of Troy.
When Faust tries to grasp the vision it disappears into nothing. Faust realizes that man is no match for perfection. The three students tell Faust that his hour has come, his time will be up at midnight. Faust shows no sign of fear and accepts with composure the fact that his life is about to end.
A nightwatchman announces the time. In the meantime Wagner has succeeded Faust as rector of the university and has moved into his house. The students serenade him. Faust wants to give a beggar woman outside the church the last of his money, but the beggar woman turns out to be the Duchess, who asks Faust to complete his work before midnight. Faust tries to enter the church to pray but his way is barred by the soldier. Faust realizes, however, that he is only an apparition. His prayer remains unanswered. Faust finally understands that failure is part of being human.
The nightwatchman discovers his dead body.
© Bayerische Staatsoper