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A Faustian tale at the Burchfield Penney

The ancient and eerie German legend about Dr. Faust, the dissatisfied scholar who turns to magic and makes a pact with the devil, has inspired countless artists over the years.

Goethe's masterpiece "Faust" is the most famous, but the many writers and musicians have thrilled to the story. It looms particularly large in classical music. Franz Schubert wrote his heated and passionate song "Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel" about the girl who falls in love with Faust. Charles Gounod turned the story into an opera.

Now, two new artists are stepping up to the plate. Their vision takes the stage at 8 p.m. Feb. 3 and 4 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center (1300 Elmwood Ave.), as part of the adventurous concert series known as A Musical Feast.

Neil Wechsler, a Yale Drama Award-winning playwright, has condensed Goethe's story so it lasts 80 minutes. And a chamber score by Nathan Heidelberger, a former compositional fellow at Tanglewood, pays homage to some of the music "Faust" has inspired over the centuries.

The presentation takes a brighter view of Faust's ultimate fate than do some other versions. While some medieval versions of the Faust legend end with his eternal damnation, various other retellings show him redeemed and forgiven, and welcomed into heaven. This new version, sources say, takes the merciful route.

The staged reading features Vincent O'Neill as Mephistopheles and David Oliver as Faust. Supporting actors include Josephine Hogan and Kurt Guba. A chamber orchestra will be performing Heidelberger's score.

Admission is $20 general, $10 for Burchfield Penney members, $5 for students. Call 878-6011.


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