October 29, 2015

101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes 112: Joan Sutherland sings excerpts from Gounod ~ Faust

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I started the Vinyl LP series because I have a collection of over 20,000 vinyl record albums I am selling; each blog entry is about an album from my collection. The 101 Reel-to-Reel Tapes series is an extension of that collection. Inquire for information here.   

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Faust is a grand opera in five acts by Charles Gounod to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from Carré's play, Faust et Marguerite, which was based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust, Part 1. It debuted at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris on March 19, 1859.

The Devil has a great aria in Faust, Le veau d'or est toujours debout! (Song of the Golden Calf). The Soldier's Chorus is fun, happy and full of life; there is a video of the Kremlin Guard performing it and it is an interesting interpretation. It is slower, aggressive and threatening, almost scary.  

But neither the Devil's song nor the Chorus are my favorites in this opera. My favorites are, Alerte ! alerte!, the final scene, and the finale which follows. They are outstanding! The final scene has the singers dramatically, constantly, shifting  from one key to the next with intense emotion until you think they can't possibly get any more intense or go any higher. But they do and you go out of your mind with the beauty of the music! And if you're lucky enough to see a production that uses an organ in ADDITION to the orchestra, well . . . (links to music on YouTube below).      

Faust was rejected by the Paris Opera, on the grounds that it was not sufficiently "showy", and its appearance at the Théatre-Lyrique was delayed for a year because Adolphe d'Ennery's drama Faust was playing at the Porte St. Martin. When it was finally staged, in 1859, it was not well received. 

However, when it was revived in Paris in 1862, it was a hit. A ballet had to be inserted before the work could be played at the Opéra in 1869: it became the most frequently performed opera at that house and a staple of the international repertory, which it remained for decades, being translated into at least 25 languages.   

Its popularity and critical reputation have declined somewhat since around 1950. A full production, with its large chorus and elaborate sets and costumes, is an expensive undertaking, particularly if the act 5 ballet is included. However, it appears as number 35 on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide.   

photo by Styrous®

It was Faust with which the Metropolitan Opera in New York City opened for the first time on October 22, 1883. It is the eighth most frequently performed opera there, with 747 performances through the 2011-2012 season. It was not until the period between 1965 and 1977 that the full version was performed (and then with some minor cuts), and all performances in that production included the Walpurgisnacht and the ballet.                  

reel-to-reel tape box back detail
detail photo by Styrous®


The action takes place in 16th Century Germany. during the German Renaissance. It is the story of of a man who sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for knowledge and power. Gounod’s opera does not attempt to match the thematic breadth or the philosophical sophistication of Goethe’s sprawling masterpiece, concentrating instead on Faust’s romantic encounter with Marguerite (Gretchen in Goethe’s drama) and the tragic results of their liaison (link to complete synopsis below).  


reel-to-reel tape box back detail
detail photo by Styrous®

reel-to-reel tape spine 
photo by Styrous®

reel-to-reel tape box open 
photo by Styrous®

photo by Styrous®

The copy of the libretto that came with the tape has yellowed with age with the form of the reel emblazoned on it which gives it a strange depth effect.    

photo by Styrous®

The miscreant tape reel

reel-to-reel tape label detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Joan Sutherland first sang the role of Marguerite on March 9, 1965, with the Connecticut Opera, a professional, non-profit, opera company based in Hartford, Connecticut, and a member of OPERA America. The company closed in February of 2009, after 67 seasons.  

    Baritone Vocals – Raymond Myers, Robert Massard     
    Bass Vocals – Nicolai Ghiaurov     
    Contralto Vocals – Monica Sinclair
    Mezzo-soprano Vocals – Margreta Elkins
    Soprano Vocals – Joan Sutherland
    Tenor Vocals – Franco Corelli
    Choir – The Choir Of Highgate School
    Chorus – The Ambrosian Opera Chorus
    Chorus Master – John McCarthy
    ConductorRichard Bonynge
    OrchestraThe London Symphony Orchestra

Label: London Records ‎– L 90172
Format: reel-to-reel tape
Country: USA
Released: 1970
Genre: Classical
Style: Opera        

libretto detail
detail photo by Styrous®



Links on the Net:           
Joan Sutherland ~ excerpts from Donizetti ~ La fille du régiment    
Joan Sutherland ~ excerpts from Mozart ~ Don Giovanni         
Faust ~ Synopsis                          
Faust ~ Roles                        

Links to music on YouTube:         
Joan Sutherland ~ Jewel Song
Joan Sutherland ~ Alerte ! alerte! & Finale     
Soldiers Chorus         
Kremlin Guard ~ Soldiers' Chorus          
Le veau d'or est toujours debout!          
final scene (Alerte! alerte!)              
Complete Faust opera           

The Joan Sutherland ~ Faust, reel-to-reel tape is for sale on eBay      

Styrous® ~ Thursday, October 29, 2015 

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