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Re: Boito's "Mefistofele"
Posted by paul corfield godfrey on April 27, 2017, 1:12 pm, in reply to "Re: Boito's "Mefistofele""
Now we have established which recording we are talking about, I should perhaps explain my earlier contention that the Christoff set cannot possibly be the only recording of Mefistofele in any collection. During his final temptation of the dying Faust, Mephistopheles conjures up a vision of sexual desire which Faust emphatically rejects; and the music at this point quotes from the duet with Helen which (in an uncut performance) we have heard fairly recently on the stage. This reminiscence is absolutely essential if we are to realise the full dramatic impact of Faust's rejection of his earlier desires; without it, indeed, the music is meaningless. So the cut of the 'Helen scenes' (although of course it reflects the cavalier attitude towards such cuts found in many operatic sets of the 1950s) is not only musically damaging, but actually detracts from the dramatic impact of Christoff's performance.
Boito himself heavily cut the score following the disastrous first performance, and it was this reworked version that subsequently went on to gain a degree of well-deserved success. But it would be interesting to hear his first thoughts on the score, if the original has survived. Like many other works of the period - Don Carlos and L'Africaine spring to mind - passages cut from operas to ensure their commercial viability, even when the composers themselves made the excisions, are often highly illuminating and may serve to render the score more involving to modern ears.
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