To the 180th birth anniversary of Arrigo Boito - composer and librettist of the opera "Mephistopheles"

Arrigo Boito - Italian composer and poet, who became famous as the author of the libretto for the operas by Giuseppe Verdi “Othello” and “Falstaff”. In 1868, the composer created his most renowned work - the opera “Mephistopheles” to his own libretto, written on the plot of Goethe's “Faust”.

Boito began to consider the plot of "Mephistopheles" back in 1862. The premiere of the opera "Mephistopheles" took place on March 5, 1868 in Milan, at the Teatro alla Scala. Boito was not only the composer and librettist, but also as the conductor, but the opera failed completely. The performance lasted five and a half hours and ended at midnight. On March 7 and 8, the opera was performed in the form of two independent parts, but even in this form, “Mephistopheles” was rejected by the public. The plot was too philosophical, and the stage action was uneloquent. Boito, always a very hard worker, he spent seven years shortening and reworking the opera for a new production, and another year for its follow-up revision. A new version, reduced to four acts with a prologue, was staged at Teatro Comunale di Bologna on October 5, 1875. The audience favorably accepted the updated version of the opera. Only a quarter of a century later, on March 16, 1901, at La Scala, under the baton of Arturo Toscanini and with Chaliapin in the title role, the true birth of this opera took place.
The Russian premiere took place at the Mariinsky Theater in 1886 (Eduard Nápravník conducted, Fyodor Stravinsky played the role Mephistopheles).

Numerous attempts were launched to create works of art on the theme of Faust. From the time of Christopher Marlowe great play (which itself is based on a dubious historical story of a medieval philosopher, and probably on some lost stage versions of this story) up to the first stage production of the masterpiece by Goethe, approximately thirty German dramas were written and staged. And if greatest masterpiece by Goethe discouraged playwrights from competing with him, then composers, on the contrary, were inspired to create more and more new works. Boito, Gounod, Berlioz, Louis Spohr, Louise Bertin, Brüggemann, Ferruccio Busoni and Meyer Lutz wrote operas based on this plot. Beethoven planned an opera based on this storyline, Schuman composed several musical sequences for the drama; Wagner composed an overture, Liszt wrote “Faust Symphony”, several choruses and songs; and many other composers wrote cantatas, separate scenes, songs and other works inspired by Goethe. One composer – Florimond Herve even wrote the operetta "Le petit Faust” (1869), which, being staged, enjoyed great success in France and abroad, and for sixty-five years was performed in many European countries, as well as in New York.

In "Mephistopheles" you can find features of various genres. The grandiose choral prologue in heaven, devoid of external action, evokes associations with mystery. The significance of this genre is emphasized by the return of prologue material in the epilogue code. The domestic and love scenes that prevail in the first three acts, among which the central one is the death of Margarita, bring Mephistopheles closer to a lyrical drama. The abundance of mass scenes, both choral and ballet, recalls the traditions of the French Grand Opera. Unusual division into a prologue and two parts. All acts have titles and epigraphs from Goethe.

There are many bright episodes in the opera, especially two arias of Mephistopheles: “Ave, Signor” (from the prologue) and “Son lo Spirito” (1 act, the so-called aria “with a whistle”, brilliantly performed by Chaliapin), Margarita’s aria from 3 action ("L'atra notte in fondo al mare").

For the 180th anniversary of Arrigo Boito, we have prepared a musical selection comprised from arias from the opera Mephistopheles performed by Fyodor Chaliapin  (1873-1938) and Alexander Pirogov (1899-1964).