Scenen aus Goethes Faust: A performer's analysis. Page: 4
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SCENE 1: IM GARTEN
The opening scene in Part I, from Scenen aus Goethes Faust depicts a courtship between
Dr. Faust and Gretchen (the diminutive of Margarete). Schumann sets the text as a dialogue
between Faust and Gretchen in which they declare their eternal love for each other. This scene is
important to the drama as Gretchen's relationship with Faust is the catalyst leading to the
eventual downward spiral of Gretchen into madness in the powerfully dramatic Scene 3. An
important compositional feature in Scenen aus Goethes Faust is Schumann's treatment of the
orchestra. The role of the orchestra in Scene 1 is more than mere accompaniment; it enhances the
atmosphere of the scene and often depicts the emotional and psychological states of the
characters. The waltzing accompaniment in 12/8 time (felt in 4) in the orchestra and the
sweeping melodic phrases in the strings creates a romantic dream-like atmosphere. The waltzing
accompaniment in the orchestra sounds as if one could mistake it for a romantic scene in an
operetta of Johann Strauss or Franz Lehar.
Another significant characteristic in Scenen aus Goethes Faust is Schumann's idiomatic
writing for the voice. The operas of Bellini, Donizetti and Meyerbeer were popular with the 19th
century public as they were often vehicles for star singers and featured theatrical spectacles that
pandered to the audiences' taste. Schumann disliked the Italian operatic opulence that permeated
bel canto operas. Prime examples of this style of dramatic music are heard in Bellini's opera
Norma (1831) in the aria "Casta Diva" and in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) in
Lucia's "Mad Scene". Schumann avoids setting melodies in the typical bel canto style of Italian
opera heard in many vocal lines of solo arias featuring ornamentation and extended cadenzas.
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Paoletti Jr., Karl. Scenen aus Goethes Faust: A performer's analysis., dissertation, August 2008; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc9053/m1/10/: accessed February 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .