"‘Le veau d’or"

The golden calf

The golden calf still stands!
We praise its power
From one end of the world to the other.
To celebrate this evil idol,
kings and commoners mingle,
To the dull clink of coins,
They dance in a crazy circle,
around its pedestal!
And Satan leads the dance.

The golden calf defeats the gods !
In its mocking glory
the abject monster insults the heavens
it looks down to see
the human race at its feet,
lashing out with its sword
in the blood and the mire,
where the blazing metal shines.
And Satan leads the dance.

Faust by Charles Gounod

Disillusioned after a lifetime studying philosophy, Faust plans to end his life. He laments his lost youth and summons Mephistopheles who can grant his desire for youth and women in exchange for his soul. A vision of Marguerite persuades Faust to sign the pact with Mephistopheles and he is transformed.

At a town fair Valentin, Marguerite’s sister is heading off to war. Mephistopheles joins the drinking and singing, and foretells a grim future for those around him. He then leads Faust to Marguerite. She refuses Faust’s advances, but he is even more enchanted.
Mephistopheles and Faust have been watching Marguerite who is obsessed with the young man she has recently met. Mephistopheles leaves her a casket of jewels which transform her when she tries them on. Her neighbour, Marthe, encourages her in pursuing this romance. Faust and Mephistopheles appear. Mephistopheles flirts with Marthe, leaving Faust alone in the garden with Marguerite. She wavers in her response to Faust but Mephistopheles overcomes her hesitation by flooding her senses with the perfume of the night flowers and she succumbs to Faust’s seduction.

Although he has abandoned her, Marguerite still loves Faust and prays for him and their unborn child. Valentin returns home, sees his sister’s state and challenges her seducer to a duel. Aided by Mephistopheles, Faust fatally wounds Valentin, who curses Marguerite as he dies. Praying for forgiveness in church, she hears Mephistopheles telling her she is damned and faints.

Marguerite, mad with grief, is in prison for killing her child. Faust sees her in a vision and comes to rescue her, assisted by Mephistopheles. Faust and Marguerite sing of their love, but she refuses to go with him and Mephistopheles, instead praying as she dies. Mephistopheles has hoped to claim her soul along with Faust’s, but a heavenly chorus proclaims her salvation.

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