Faust (Classic Drama)

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9781843795490: Faust (Classic Drama)
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Goethe's Faust is one of the pillars of Western literature. This classic drama, using the superb new translation by John R. Williams, presents the story of the scholar Faust, tempted into a contract with the Devil in return for a life of sensuality and power. Enjoyment rules until Faust's emotions are stirred by a meeting with Gretchen, and the tragic outcome brings Part 1 to an end. Part 2, written much later in Goethe's life, places his eponymous hero in a variety of unexpected circumstances, causing Faust to reflect on humanity and its attitudes to life and death.

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Goethe's Faust is brought to life in a new abridged translation Goethe's Faust is one of the masterpieces of the Romantic Age. Part I was completed in 1808, Part II in 1832. The story is best known to the general public as the subject of the Gounod opera of the same name, possibly through the Boito operatic version Mefistofele, and perhaps even through the Berlioz episodic La Damnation de Faust. Part I of Goethe's Faust is often performed, Part II less so because of its dense concepts and lack of a unified story. Part I, more simply, deals mostly with the Faust-Gretchen romance. To cut to the chase, Naxos AudioBooks has issued a highly abridged dramatized recording of both parts on four CDs with a running time of four hours. Since a complete reading of Part I alone would take about that time, this version is less an abridgment and more selections from the complete plays. But even this little is worth the hearing. A very easy-to-follow translation by John R. Williams is used, from which David Timson drew his adaptation and directed the production. It sounds like the actors are performing on a stage, judging from the footsteps and occasional scraping of furniture. Faust is played by Samuel West, with Toby Jones as a properly sardonic Mephistopheles and Anna Maxwell Martin as the innocent maiden Gretchen, who winds up in prison, insane but ultimately saved by a heavenly host. Derek Jacobi has a few short minutes as The Lord in the Prologue. The incidents in Part II are nearly impossible to follow, and I do wish a narrator had been used at least to announce who was in the scene to follow. I think getting a short synopsis will be of immense help to the listener. And putting one small character in an echo chamber (he is in a bottle, you see) does not help comprehension at all. It would also help to be familiar with tenets of the Romantic writers to appreciate further the philosophy that begins with man must err as long as he strives (The Lord in the Prologue) to the Eternal Feminine draws us on (the last words of Part II). It is all very poetic but very instructive if consid­ered closely. --Brattleboro Reformer - Frank Behrens

Goethe's classic tragedy is here vividly enacted by a talented cast, including Samuel West (Faust), Toby Jones (Mephistopheles) and Derek Jacobi (The Lord). Frustrated with the limitations of mankind, Faust is given the ultimate offer by the Devil incarnate and must live with the consequences of accepting such a bargain. Despite the abridgement, the production is well contained, clear, and nicely executed. Verdict: The performances all shine, with the only faltering owing to the sound mixing. At times, the music and limited sound effects interfere with one's ability to hear the cast clearly, especially given the word patterns of the rhyming schemes. Recommended for fans of dramatisations, classics and plays. --Lance Eaton, Library Journal

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