Four essential recordings of Gounod's Faust

Gounod’s Faust has proved one of the most popular takes on the soul-selling legend. We’ve trawled through the recorded versions to find the best…

Gounod
Published: March 19, 2019 at 12:00 am

Gounod’s opera Faust has all the ingredients for success: sex, money, war, jealousy, the battle between saints and sinners, and in every scene, memorable tunes and opportunities for vocal display. Although many 20th-century music critics disdained its old-fashioned theatricality, no other French opera of the 19th century has held its place in the repertory so firmly – with the obvious exception of Bizet’s Carmen.

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Gounod composed Faust for the 1859 season at the Théatre Lyrique in Paris. His librettists, Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, did not base their text directly on Goethe’s tragedy, but on a play that Carré had already written called Faust et Marguerite. The grand spectacle quickly established itself internationally, with productions in Milan, London, St Petersburg, Warsaw, Dresden, Munich and Philadelphia. But what are the essential recordings? Here are four to seek out...

Cluytens
EMI Great Recordings of the Century 567 9672

A classic set that wears its years lightly, Gedda and De los Angeles ideally paired as Faust and Marguerite, with Christoff a
terrifying villain.

Bonynge
Decca 421 2402

The first attempt at a complete recording, with three superstar voices, Corelli, Sutherland and Ghiaurov, makes Decca sound at its best.

Beecham
Naxos 8.110117-18

An opera that Beecham held in special affection, with leading French tenor of his day, Georges Noré, a fascinating Faust and Géori Boué an authentic Marguerite.

Busser
Pearl GEMM CDS 9987

A glimpse at a lost style, Faust as it might have been heard in Paris in 1930. Diction, timing, characterisation of the first order, and amazingly vivid sound for a set 75 years young.

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Original text by Patrick O'Connor

Authors

Michael BeekReviews Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Michael is the Reviews Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He was previously a freelance film music journalist and spent 15 years at St George's Bristol. Michael specialises in film and television music and was the Editor of MusicfromtheMovies.com. He has written for the BBC Proms, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood in Vienna and Silva Screen Records.

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