GP at The Met: La Damnation de Faust

La Damnation de Faust

Radiant mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and dashing Italian tenor Marcello Giordani are unlucky lovers in La Damnation de Faust, Hector Berlioz’s classic take on dancing with the devil, Saturday, February 28 at noon (ET) on Great Performances at the Met (check local listings). Presented by THIRTEEN in 5.1 digital surround sound on PBS HD, the new Met production is conducted by Music Director James Levine and conceived by visionary Canadian director Robert Lepage.

Nearly stealing the show: handsome young Canadian bass-baritone John Relyea as a most persuasive Méphistophélès.

“Stunning,” wrote The New York Times of Lepage’s breakthrough use of video imagery, depicting everything from a grassy field to a fiery hell. Also lauded were Graham’s “rapturous richness and elegant restraint,” Giordani’s “ardor and intelligence” and Relyea’s “wily, seductive lyricism.”

Based on Goethe’s Faust Part I, the work retells the timeless tale of the devil-dealing title character (Giordani) who ultimately barters his soul for the salvation of his beloved Marguerite (Graham). In one of music’s most chilling exits, he and his diabolical nemesis gallop to hell in Berlioz’s celebrated, and fearsome, “Ride to the Abyss.”

Perhaps best known today as the composer of the bizarrely delightful Symphonie Fantastique (1838), Hector Berlioz toiled relentlessly in the field of opera. Although slow to find their places in the world’s repertory, these efforts included Benvenuto Cellini (1838) and his masterpiece, Les Troyens (1858). La Damnation de Faust, which he termed a “légende dramatique” and not written for the stage, was first performed in Paris in 1846.

Director Lepage, in his Met debut, has reconceived the production he originally created for Japan’s Saito Kinen Festival and the Opéra National de Paris. The new staging features enhanced media and technology that was previously not available – some of which was developed by Lepage and his Quebec-based company, Ex Machina. The entire production team makes its Met debut with the production: set designer Carl Fillion, costume designer Karin Erskine, lighting designer Sonoyo Nishikawa, choreographers Johanne Madore and Alain Gautier, and video designers Holger Foerterer and Boris Firquet.

Great Performances at the Met: La Damnation de Faust, the third of 11 productions to air this season on the series, is sung in French with English surtitles. The libretto is adapted from Goethe by Berlioz and Almire Gandonnière. It was recorded on stage in performance November 22, 2008, as part of The Met: Live in HD series. Barbara Willis Sweete directs, with Susan Graham as opening host and baritone Thomas Hampson stepping in at intermission. Jay Saks is audio producer.

Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers, and PBS. Corporate support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers. Telecast funding for La Damnation de Faust is provided by Donald G. Sisler.

  • Les Smith

    I have an audio (only) recording of this work. I very much look forward to your broadcast! I’m a John Relyea fan!

  • Ali

    I saw this in the movie theatre, and was blown away. What a fantastic opera!

  • tony

    I too was at the movie theatre, James Levine’s conducting was outstanding, I never saw a more moving production like this..The cast was first rate..the orchestra was superb..what else can one say aboout this opera?..I wait for the broadcast of feb.28….

  • mario

    will you be broadcasting any other operas after the damnation of faust

  • catherine losik

    saw this in theatre. It is a great production, very new. Recommend

  • Edna Bradford Ratner

    I would wish for better publicity for those of us who have just found the Met at a local theatre . . it is an intense and new art form. Thank you so much for it !

  • mario

    I watch both vermont and mountain lake stations…they don’t seem to show much opera or classical concerts. I am very disappointed that they are not showing today the damnation of faust.
    Please let me kow if they plan to show it or any other opera in the future. Thank you.

  • Lisette

    I’m with Mario. I was all set to watch this and… nada! I also get both Mountain Lake and Vermont. Will it be shown at a later date?

  • kamlesh

    This was my first attempt to sit through an opera, though on my mid size telly. I am spellbound and now hooked to more such performances! Looking forward to watch the production at the Met!

  • joanna Bergmann

    came in on the middle of damnation of faust trough sunday arts program; will it be repeated? thank you.

  • Will

    My cable box did not recrded it, i WAS SO LOOKING FORWARD TO IT ;>(

  • Elliott

    I missed this. Please reair it. Please let me know if there will be a reair. I live in Newark, NJ. Thank you.

  • Sylvie

    Mario, I found it! Vermont 2009/03/29 at 2 pm

  • susan

    I am with the others in having missed it. WILL IT be rebroadcast in the New York, New Jersey area? If so, please let me know details.

  • Michelle Kunert

    Why can’t you air this, and other Met Operas at a decent hour on a stereo channel?!
    But no for all the both public and private money you receive, instead of promoting opera on Sunday nights, you air boring 20 year old BBC reruns of Dickens’ serial novels. Indeed making these kind of decisions turn off peoples’interest, especially young peoples’ in watching public television.

  • Lucia B. Joseph

    Very disappointed that Faust was not on Sunday as scheduled. When did these people see it, and when will I be able to see it?

  • Iya Adesanya-Kerr

    I was delightfully surprised that this version had a unique quality of freshness and vitality: the infusion of contemporary theater, technology and musical expertise made this an exceptional collaboration.

    As an organic performance artist, it is rare to see such a rich balance of the traditional and modern arts.

    I was thrilled, captivated and left wanting to call friends, asking ” Did you see that? The guards walked up the walls “to war” only to return like slaughtered meat on hooks from war! It was a great effect!!!! It was truly a “great performance”… truly. I also want to know when it will re-air, or be performed live. Thank you.

  • Teri

    Breath-takingly beautiful visuals!

  • sophia

    I just happened to catch this wonderful treat. We in SW Florida are starving for GOOD opera. Please give us more and publicise it better. This was new and fresh. thank you

  • MaryAnn VanOostendorp

    Please rebroadcast this dazzling opera again. I saw most of it but not the end. What an irritation. What singing! What orchastration! What staging and visual effects! Magnificant production. We members of PBS need to see this one again.

  • the new samual ramey

    I saw this on PBS on a Sunday afternoon and it was fantastic. Now I wish I’d gone to the theater to see it live in HD! John Relyea — what a voice! He reminds me of a much younger (and MUCH taller) Samuel Ramey, whom I saw many times at Lyric Opera in Chicago in the 80s and 90s in such villainous roles as Scarpia and Mefistofeles. What voices!! Ramey had the ability to combine sinister and sensual, playing opera villains who inspired (terribly) guilty-pleasure, bad boy crushes. (Some opera singers are just *rock**stars* — Ramey was, and I believe Relyea is too.) I hope Relyea will come to Chicago to sing — soon!


    I wqatched thislaqst week and the focus was terrible. Will it be broadcast again hopefully with a h.c. pic? Or at least standard quality. Has anyone else comented on the focus. Maybe it is my set but I doubt that.

  • Barb H.

    I love all the “devil made me do it” operas! This is the first time I have seen the Berlioz version, only having heard it in concert version. This production is an outstanding achievement. And, yes, Relyea certainly does have the magic of Sam Ramey — delicious!

  • Dan Calleja

    My local PBS station did not carry this broadcast. Would somebody who recorded it be willing to make me a copy? I have almost every MET telecast on DVD (recorded from TV of course) and I am open to trading videos. Hope to hear from you soon! Thanks!

  • David Hickey

    Now that it’s been two months since the last Met season’s Cenerentola was broadcast, and the local PBS affiliate still has not aired this excellent production, would anyone be willing to make and send me a copy? Like Dan Calleja, I’m open to trading videos of PBS GP@Met 2009 winter/spring offerings other than Salome, which I also missed. Look forward to hearing from you. Thanks!

  • Kent Downing

    I enjoyed this so much last night. I would also love a recording. I plan to get an audio recording of the work this week. Thank you PBS!!

  • machiko

    i watched it on TV two years ago and love it. but i started it in the middle of it, i could not record it. Last October, I with such a determination, watched it at the Met and I loved it more. since then, i have been trying hard to get DVD or a copy of TV program. i even asked the Met if there is any plan for them to make DVD. no success so far. unfortunately i don’t have any copy for exchange, but if anybody can give me the information how i can get it, i greatly appreciate it. PBS, thank you for having aired it. if DVD comes out, i will be the first one to buy it and i believe more and more will. please!

  • Miguel Palafox

    Mr. Calleja, I’m interested to know which operas you have to offer on DVD. Please email me to



  • D Reynolds

    I caught half of this broadcast on May 12, 2012 and I was blown away by the performance and the story. I would love to see a rebroadcast or is there a DVD available of this performance with Marcello Giordani and Susan Graham? If not please rebroadcast soon. How about the for the upcoming holidays. Maybe Halloween would be a great time to rebroadcast. I am a big fan of PBS and Great Performances. Keep up the great work.

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