Metropolitan Opera 2019-20 Preview: Elīna Garanča To Headline Rare Performance of Berlioz’s ‘La Damnation de Faust’

By David Salazar
(Credit: Julien Benhamou)

Berlioz’s “La Damnation de Faust” returns to the Metropolitan Opera for the first time since 2009. 

While recognized as one of the great works by its composer, it has not been a fixture at the Met by any stretch of the imagination. While it had its company premiere all the way back in 1896, it has only seen the Met’s stage 26 times to date. 

In its first performance on Feb. 2, 1896, the work starred Albert Lubert, Clémentine De Vere, and Pol Plançon with Anton Seidl conducting. Of this group, only Plançon would manage a lengthy run of performances, becoming the  Méphistophélès of record for the first nine performances of the run. Lubert would get two more and De Vere would only appear this once as Marguerite; she would be replaced by Lillian Nordica in the next two shows.

The opera would get its fourth Met performance 10 years after its first with Plançon, Charles Rousselière, and Geraldine Farrar. This trio would headline the six performances that season. 

The opera would then disappear for 90 years before returning in 1996 for two concert performances. The first of these performances, a lone concert in late 1996, would be conducted by James Levine with Giuseppe Sabbatini, Anne Sofie von Otter and José Van Dam. Then the company would take the work on tour to Japan with a cast that included James Morris, Olga Borodina, and Vinson Cole. 

Twelve years later audiences would get a whopping eight performances in the new production by Robert LePage starring Marcello Giordani, Susan Graham, and John Relyea. James Levine conducted. 

And then a year later, the opera returned with Ramón Vargas, Ildar Abdrazakov and Olga Borodina for seven performances. 

This season’s performances, four in total, will star Bryan Hymel for the opening two on Jan. 25 and 29 with Michael Spyres taking on the latter two shows on Feb. 1 and 8. Elīna Garanča and Ildar Abdrazakov round out the cast conducted by Edward Gardner.