18 Mar 2007

BOITO: Mefistofele

Mefistofele, Opera in un prologo, quattro atti e un epilogo

Music and libretto by Arrigo Boito (1842-1918), based on Faust: Eine Tragödie by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

First performance: 5 March 1868 at Teatro alla Scala, Milan (second version: 4 October 1875 at Teatro Comunale, Bologna)

Principal Characters
Mefistofele Bass
Faust Tenor
Margherita Soprano
Marta Alto
Wagner Tenor
Elena Soprano
Pantalis Alto
Nereo Tenor


In Heaven Mefistofele offers God a wager: he says that he can succeed in seducing the learned Faust onto the paths of evil and that he will gain possession of his soul. God accepts.

Act I

Mefistofele travels to Frankfurt disguised as a Franciscan monk. He enters Faust’s study and convinces him to sign a contract.

Act II

Mefistofele and Faust are in a garden with Margherita and Marta, her neighbour. Faust converses with Margherita and seduces her. To prevent their being disturbed, he gives Margherita a powerful sleeping-draught for her mother. Mefistofele and Faust travel to a witches’ sabbath on a mountain top. Faust beholds a vision of Margherita, pale as death with a blood-red rope around her neck. He hears Mefistofele's curse upon the world.


Margherita is in prison awaiting her execution. She has been accused of having killed her child and poisoned her mother. Faust attempts to convince her to flee with him, but she refuses. She recognises Mefistofele as the devil and prays for forgiveness. Choirs of angels announce the salvation of her soul.

Act IV

On the banks of the Peneios in ancient Greece, young girls perform a dance in honour of the full moon. Helen of Troy and her companion Pantalis lament the fate of Troy. Mefistofele and Faust appear. Faust professes his love for Helen and they withdraw to a cave.


Faust sits in his study in Frankfurt. He has grown old and thinks back upon all he has experienced. He realises that his life has been mere vanity. He dies with the Bible in his hand, without giving in to the last temptations sent by Mefistofele. Faust is welcomed by the angelic host into Heaven.

Click here for the complete libretto.