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Gilliam is directing his first opera ever! ‘The Damnation of Faust’


From cartoons to animation to film to opera: Terry Gilliam, Monty Python legend and cult film-maker, directs a new production of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust

ENO stages a new production of Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust directed by actor, screenwriter and film-maker Terry Gilliam. This large scale company work ranges from intimacy to grandeur with a powerful score that showcases the ENO Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by ENO Music Director Edward Gardner, and featuring a stellar cast led by Christine Rice.

Terry Gilliam’s vivid imagination and ability to bring his often surreal vision of the world to life is a trademark of his work. His iconic animation for Monty Python has led to an esteemed career in Hollywood, his films often demonstrating escape from society through eye-popping magical and surreal interpretations of reality – from Time Bandits and Brazil through to The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Berlioz wrote The Damnation of Faust with clear directions of setting and action to guide the performers’ imaginations, but never expected the directions to be physically realised. Berlioz was a maverick figure who, despite his veneration for composers such as Gluck and Beethoven, pushed the boundaries of the art form. The Damnation of Faust is the perfect vehicle for Terry Gilliam’s

rich imagination.

“Berlioz didn’t play by the rules…From cartoons, to animation, to films to opera – a good journey”: Gilliam talks about his early thoughts on The Damnation of Faust here:

Based on a translation of Goethe’s dramatic poem and conceived as first an oratorio, then an opera, and finally a ‘dramatic legend’, Berlioz’s story examines the idea of temptation, and the lengths a man will go to for love. Faust, despite his age and religious faith, is tempted by the devilish Mephistopheles, first with the promise of knowledge and youth, and then by the promise of love. This familiar morality tale turns tragic, as, having fallen madly in love with the beautiful Marguerite he is prepared to do anything to save her, even if that includes signing away his soul. As Faust descends into hell – Mephistopheles having claimed his reward – Marguerite ascends into heaven, moving the two characters irrevocably apart. Ultimately Faust writes his own tragedy – his inability to resist temptation condemning him to eternal torment.

Collaborating with Gilliam is the celebrated German set designer Hildegard Bechtler, whose experience encompasses theatre, television, film and opera. Her previous work for ENO includes the critically acclaimed Peter Grimes. The creative team is completed with costume designer Katrina Lindsay and lighting designer Peter Mumford, whose recent work on Lucrezia Borgia has been highly praised.

ENO Music Director Edward Gardner conducts a superb cast led by Christine Rice as the seduced and abandoned Marguerite, following her acclaimed performance for ENO as Zenobia in Christopher Alden’s Radamisto earlier this season. After an outstanding performance as Sharikov in Simon McBurney’s Olivier nominated A Dog’s Heart, Peter Hoare returns to ENO to sing the role of Faust, the intellectual who sells his soul for love and Christopher Purves makes his role debut as Mephistopheles with Nicholas Folwell singing the role of Brander.

The Damnation of Faust opens at the London Coliseum on 6 May 2011 for 10 performances –

6, 12, 18, 20, 27 May & 2, 7 June at 7.30pm and 14 May & 4 June at 6.30pm and 8 May at 3.00pm

A co-production with De Vlaamse Opera, Antwerp

Opera Tots and Opera Stars: Crèche facility, May 8 at 2.30pm, childcare activities for ages 7-12, 4 June at 6.00pm

Join The Conversation Live: Pre-performance discussion, 12 May, 5.30-6.30pm:

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