The Devil Made Him Do It: Faust in Music

The legend of Doctor Faust, one of the most compelling in Western culture, is based on an actual person, Johann Georg Faust (d. 1540). Adaptations of his story began in the 16th century and have continued to the present day in novels, plays, operas, ballets, films, comics, and even Anime.

Early settings such as Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus interpreted the story as a tale of Christian morality. In the 19th century, after the 1808 publication of Goethe’s Faust, Part I, European composers created new views of the legend. Settings of Goethe’s text predominated, but it was not the only source. Composers who set excerpts from Goethe’s poem to music include Schubert, Beethoven, and Mussorgsky. Other works based on the Faust legend include oratorios by Schumann and Berlioz; operas by Gounod, Boito, Busoni, and Brian; symphonies by Liszt and Mahler; concert pieces by Wagner and others, a reinterpretation of the story by Stravinsky, and the Broadway musical Damn Yankees. This seminar explores the various views of the legend ranging from settings of Goethe’s text to adaptations for musical genres, and how they reflect the times in which they were written.

Note: You do NOT have to read Goethe’s Faust to enjoy this seminar.

Venue: The Engineering Center
Meets on: Tuesdays 3:30 to 5:30 pm
Starting: 10/3/2023
Sessions: 6
Class Size: 24
Teaching Style: Lecture and discussion
Weekly Preparation: None
Group Leader Biography:

Bradford Conner and Benjamin Sears have been performing together since 1989 and lecture regularly on the music they perform. Conner and Sears are leading scholars of Irving Berlin, with six recordings of his songs and print publications. Also opera and history lovers, both have taught at Beacon Hill Seminars and are recipients of the Jack Curtin Award. Sears, a graduate of Ithaca College and editor of The Irving Berlin Reader, wrote a chapter in Adapting the Wizard of Oz: Musical Versions from Baum to MGM and Beyond, and is in the early stages of developing The Fred Astaire Reader. Conner is a graduate of West Virginia University, having also studied at the University of Salzburg (Austria) and the American College of Salzburg. A renaissance individual with degrees in business, musicology, and foreign language, he has lectured and written on his interests in music and world history.