Gounod – Final scene from Act V of Faust

by Max Derrickson

Charles Gounod (1818-1893)

Final scene from Act V of Faust (1859)


The storyline of Gounod’s Faust follows roughly the plot of Part I of the famous Goethe play but with a few dramatic liberties.  That famous story presents an aged Dr. Faust who, in his disillusionment with life and his science, appeals to the Devil, Mephistopheles, for youth and love.  The “Faustian bargain” is made – Faust’s soul is sold and the inevitable tragic consequences begin to mount.   In Gounod’s opera, the love interest is the innocent and pure Marguerite.  With the conquest complete, and the baby born, Faust abandons her in pursuit of more youthful adventures.  Shunned by society and shamed to her deepest core, poor Marguerite murders the child and goes to jail.  Act V opens with Faust and Mephistopheles partaking in a hellish bacchanal, but Faust, out of guilt and sincere love for Marguerite, persuades Mephistopheles to help him free his tormented lover from prison.  The final scene is in the jail cell, with a delirious, and dying, Marguerite repenting her soul to God and shunning Faust and Mephistopheles amidst their pleas for her to escape.  Heaven’s choir gathers to bring their dear Marguerite home with them, as Gounod creates an incredibly powerful scene for the trio, chorus, full orchestra and organ.