The Department of Music in Arts & Sciences will host a symposium titled “‘Damnation of Faust’ by Hector Berlioz” at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 18, in Wilson Hall. The event coincides with a pair of performances Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18, in Powell Hall by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by David Zinman.
Moderator is Hugh Macdonald, Ph.D., the Avis H. Blewett Professor of Music in Arts & Sciences. Macdonald has published three books on Berlioz and is founding editor of the New Berlioz Edition.
He has worked extensively in French music — especially Berlioz, Bizet and Massenet — as well as in Russian and Czech music.
Presenters will include Amy Kaiser, director of the Saint Louis Symphony Chorus; D. Kern Holoman, Ph.D., professor of music at the University of California, Davis; and Francesco Izzo, Ph.D., visiting associate professor at the University of Chicago.
Berlioz first read Goethe’s “Faust” (in French translation) while a medical student in Paris. Deeply impressed, he composed eight short pieces, based on eight scenes from the poem, and published them in 1829 as “Huit scènes de Faust” (his Opus 1).
Yet Berlioz soon grew dissatisfied with the result and, still planning a grander work, destroyed all the copies he could find.
Berlioz returned to the theme in the mid-1840s, following his successful “Romeo and Juliet,” reusing some sections of the earlier attempt while also adding choral parts and libretto by Almire Gandonniere.
The result — which Berlioz dubbed an “opera de concert” and later “legende dramatique,” or dramatic legend — was neither opera nor symphony and failed to resonate with audiences.
Though today “Damnation of Faust” is considered among the composer’s finest works, it was performed only twice during his lifetime.
The symposium is free and open to the public.