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Dr Arlene Sierra’s operatic take on a legendary tale of envy and desire

Faustine - novella cover

Meet Muriel.

She’s an old woman who has spent her best years raising her daughter’s child. Envious of those with youth and power, and in love with her daughter’s lover, she enters into a diabolical pact.

This is Faustine, a tale of envy and desire based on the classic German legend Faust. Published as a novella by Emma Tennant, it is now being adapted as an opera by the award-winning composer Dr Arlene Sierra.

Dr Sierra said: “The opera is based on a novella that I came across in a used bookstore in London. Emma Tennant is a well-known British writer who has reinterpreted all kinds of fairy tales, often with a feminist slant.

“The idea of modernizing and feminizing the Faust story appealed to me, focusing on the very human desire to seek youth, vanity and power. The story also tackles intergenerational strife between the ‘50s ideal of womanhood and 70s feminism, and the subsequent confusions since then.”Arlene Sierra

Composed by Arlene Sierra, with libretto by playwright Lucy Thurber, the opera is currently in development with the Center for Contemporary Opera in New York. Selections were showcased by the New York City Opera in 2011 and described by Musical America as "the most musically adventurous, tightly constructed and dramatically sound of the works-in-progress on offer.”

Further support for the project has come from Aldeburgh Young Artist Residences, ROH2 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the American Music Center CAP programme.

Listen to audio excerpts at

“Sierra’s musical language encompasses both acerbic dissonance where the plot requires it and, elsewhere, supple melodies of considerable sweep. Particularly riveting were her duets for the devil -- here unctuously played and vividly sung by countertenor Jason Abrams -- and the leading role, sung with earthy resonance by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Roderer. ...the Vox reading suggested that Thurber and Sierra are well on the way toward crafting a memorable new opera.” – Musical America

Production Artists
Composer: Arlene Sierra
Librettist: Lucy Thurber
Conductor: Ryan McAdams
Musical Preparation: Lynn Baker

Devil: Jason Abrams
Muriel: Jennifer Roderer
Ella: Deanna Breiwick
Anna: Amanda Pabyan
Harry: Ian Greenlaw,_faustine.html