Scenen aus Goethes Faust: A performer's analysis. Page: 18
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The erudite Schumann ignored setting the overtly theatrical scenes in Goethe's tragedy
and instead chose to compose the scenes that were much more symbolic in nature in Part II of
Goethe's Faust in his effort to raise dramatic music to the level of literature (i.e., literary opera).
Ernest Newman states regarding Schumann:
Schumann's scheme is thus in the highest degree philosophical. It austerely disregards
the conventional elements that enter into the usual operatic Faust ... The work is uneven
in its musical inspiration; but on the whole we can say that Schumann's is the real
German Faust, the Faust of Goethe...."11
Goethe demonstrates his veneration for great literature of the past as he frequently makes
reference to themes and symbols taken directly from classic Greek and Roman mythology, the
Bible, Dante and Shakespeare. Faust, a seeker of truth, ultimately causes his own downfall as a
result of his continual striving toward an unobtainable perfection in life. His insatiable striving,
his search for the meaning of life and spiritual growth are a reflection of humankind's struggle to
transform the world into a Utopian society.12
In the opening scene Faust, weary from his traumatic experience with Gretchen, "has
sought the solace of nature" surrounded by a charming landscape and he is calmed by the singing
of Ariel, accompanied by Aeolian harps and a chorus of fairies.13 Ariel and his fairies, borrowed
from Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" "symbolize those
natural forces which enable...saintly man and sinner too to know rebirth like the plants in the
spring"14 Faust's restoration is not only a result of his encounter with Ariel, but also from the act
of being dipped by spirits into the mythological stream Lethe. The river Lethe, also known as the
stream of oblivion in Hades and which was used by Dante in Purgatorio, cleanses Faust of some
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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/m1/24/: accessed January 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .