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In the beginning was the deed

Robert Schumann
Berlin Staatsoper, until December 17

Aribert Reimann
Deutsche Oper Berlin, until October 31

Giuseppe Verdi
English National Opera, until December 2

Reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement, 27 October
Stephan Rügamer as Ariel and the chorus of Szenen aus Goethes Faust © Hermann and Clärchen Baus

“Meine Ruh’ ist hin” – “my peace is gone”: So says Gretchen, in wonder and anguish, all because she has fallen in love with one of European literature’s least likeable heroes, Goethe’s Faust. She has only just met him when she speaks these lines, but this is all the more reason to feel for Gretchen, whose lament for her lost equilibrium at the spinning wheel became one of the most frequently set passages from the play. Indeed, most of us probably know best the lines from Schubert’s song, “Gretchen am Spinnrade”, with its musical spinning-wheel poised just on the edge of running away with itself. The song was one of fifteen Goethe setting…

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