Western Culture is littered with works that have as their core a deal with the Devil, or the Devil's Contract--a folk motif that pops up in everything from popular music to film to great works of literature.  Started within Christian tradition, the Devil's Contract is a staple among the folktales of European nations, and the US turned it into a cultural tradition--not the pact, but talking about the pact.  You know the drill:  Someone trades their immortal soul for power, wealth, knowledge, love, sex--and in the tragic versions, of course, the Devil gives nearly anything for that soul... and in comic tradition, the main character finds a way to cheat the Devil out of the contract.

You've probably seen more versions of this deal than you remember.   Damn Yankees, the Devil's Advocate, Crossroads, Stephen King's Christine, The Devil and Daniel Webster, The Master and Margerita, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, even Bedazzled where Satan is played by Elizabeth Hurley.

Sometimes the deal with the devil can be a metaphor--not the actual devil, but a very bad deal that you can't get out of--a deal you make with unscrupulous characters. Think Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street; think Tom Cruise in The Firm; think Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in Star Wars.  Not to mention A LOT of music--from classical and opera to heavy metal and pop (Franz Lizst, meet Sting). 

Sometimes it can be a legend--think Robert Johnson, famous blues musician at the Crossroads, signing away his soul for the ability to play great blues music.  (I'm sure other jealous musicians thought that one up).

You can thank Faust for all these diabolical tales.  Two famous adaptations of his story, from Goethe and Marlowe in particular, have been helpful: a scholar sells his soul to the devil because study can't seem to satisfy him, and the answers to the universe are not in books.  So he throws it all away on mysticism and sorcery.  Goethe has Faust rescued and Marlowe has him condemned.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

How many more versions of the "Deal with the Devil" can you think of?  Do these Fausts win or lose against the Devil?

Gounod's Faust, the Opera on Sunday, is now set in an Atomic Bomb Factory and Faust is a middle-aged scientist trying to create the bomb first.  We got a whole new context for our deal with the Devil. 

Come hear Gounod's fabulous score and hear Jonas Kaufmann as Faust and Rene Pape as the Devil! 

If you come on Sunday, you get to enter into a draw for TWO FREE TICKETS to the Opera of your choice. 

Hey, it's Faust.  We had to make a deal with you, eh?

 

"Somebody's knockin'.  Should I let him in?  Lord, it's the devil, would you look at him!  I've heard about him, but I never dreamed.  He'd have blue eyes and blue jeans..."

from "Somebody's Knockin'" by Ed Penney and Jerry Gillespie, as sung by Terri Gibbs (1980)