F.W. Murnau’s Faust (1926)
Phillip Johnston, composer.
Hilary Bell, librettist.
Length: 116 minutes.

This 1926 German Expressionist silent film, starring Emil Jannings, Gösta Ekman, and Camilla Horn, was Murnau’s last German film before emigrating to America, and is considered by many to be his masterpiece. Using fantastic special effects and painterly tableaux to tell a story that is larger than life, yet tragic in its human dimensions, its themes of Fate, human vanity, individual free will, and self-sacrifice are as powerful today as ever.

Phillip Johnston's original score for Faust was commissioned by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and premiered at the 2002 New York Film Festival. . It has subsequently toured in the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Slovenia. Johnston's previous silent film work includes scores for Teinosuke Kinugasa's Page of Madness (1926), The George Méliès Project (1907-1912), and Tod Browning’s The Unknown (1927), starring Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford, which the Sydney Morning Herald’s John Shand called a “perfect film score” in 2001.

The Faust score features songs, with lyrics by Australian playwright Hilary Bell (Wolf Lullaby, The Falls), as well as instrumental underscore, performed by a new Australian ensemble featuring Elizabeth Jones (accordion), John Napier (cello), and Lauren Easton (voice), along with the composer on saxophone, piano and ukulele.

In reviewing a performance of the Faust score at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), American music critic Seth Rogovoy said, “Johnston's work is characterized by its willful perversity -- its utter unwillingness to stay in one place, its defiance of genre, its universal embrace of the offbeat, its celebration of the quirky, dramatic and surprising gesture.”


(Australia): Lauren Easton (voice), Elizabeth Jones (accordion), John Napier (cello), Phillip Johnston (saxophones, piano, ukulele).

LAUREN EASTON has worked with the Bel A’Capella Ensemble, Sing NSW, and renowned pianist James Muire. 2006 saw Lauren perform as the sole female finalist in the Australian Singing Competition at Sydney Conservatorium's Vergbrugghen Hall. As a result, this year Lauren joined the Sydney Omega Ensemble and pianist Andrea Katz to perform as part of the Art Gallery of New South Wales “Resonate Series”. Most recently Lauren was awarded the Barbara Howard Vocal Prize and first place in the Friends of The State Opera SA Inc. Aria Competition. With a focus on operatic studies, Lauren’s repertoire embraces Oratorio, Lieder, Musical Theatre, and Art Song.

ELIZABETH JONES began post graduate studies at the Royal Acadamy of Music in London in 1992 where she studied for four years with prominant accordion teacher Professor Owen Murray and piano with Antoinetta Notariello. Currently she is completing her Doctorate of Creative Arts at UWS. She has performed in London, Hong Kong, China and New Zealand. In 1999 she was guest artist with Opera Australia in Wozzeck and she is the recipient of many awards including an Elizabethan Theatre Trust scholarship for overseas study in 2000. She has recently released a CD of transcriptions for accordion.

JOHN NAPIER has a doctorate in Musicology from UNSW, where he lectures full time. His performing life is extremely varied and has included classical, rock and pop gigs and recordings. He is especially known for his work with the Institute of Eastern Music and his improvisations with performers of traditional Indian music. He has performed in the U.S, Italy, Japan and India and has appeared with various groups such as The Mambologists, Southern Crossings, The One Extra Dance Company, and with Robyn Archer at the Sydney Opera House.

Librettist HILARY BELL is known internationally as a writer for stage, radio, screen and music theatre. Her radio plays WreckageThe Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Ruysch, Is It You? and The Claimant were commissioned and produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Her stage plays have been produced in Australia, Europe and the United States, including New York’s Atlantic and Chicago’s Steppenwolf. They include Wolf Lullaby, Fortune, Shot While Dancing, The FallsThe Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Ruysch, and Memmie LeBlanc. Her libretti include the musical The Wedding Song (composer Douglas Stephen Rae), song cycle Talk Show (composer Elena Katz-Chernin) ten-minute opera Crumbs from the Table of Love (composer Charles B. Griffin), and full-length opera Mrs. Satan (composer Victoria Bond), excerpts of which were presented by New York City Opera.

She is a recipient of the Philip Parsons Young Playwrights' Award, Jill Blewitt Playwrights' Award, Australian Writers Guild Award (AWGIE), the Bug’n’Bub Award and Eric Kocher Playwrights’ Award. Her children’s novel Mirror, Mirror received the Aurealis Award and has been translated into Danish. Hilary is a graduate of the Juilliard Playwrights’ Studio and the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, & has taught playwriting at Wesleyan University and New York University. She was the 2003-04 Tennessee Williams Fellow in Playwriting at the University of the South, Tennessee. Hilary is currently under commission from Yale Rep, as well as writing the screenplay for Alex Miller's Journey To The Stone Country, and a musical about Cole's Funny Picture Books.

(US): Elizabeth Farnum (voice), Will Holshouser or Guy Klucevsek (accordion), Tomas Ulrich (cello), Phillip Johnston (saxophones, piano, ukulele).

ELIZABETH FARNUM, soprano, is a specialist in contemporary music. In addition, she is an active performer in many diverse musical styles, and her performances of modern music, early music and musical theater have taken her throughout the United States, Europe and Japan. In the opera world, she performed the role of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with The Group Opera and Pamina in The Magic Flute with the Bronx Opera. She created the role of Alva in Anthony Braxton’s Shala Fears for the Poor, and has sung with the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. She has premiered pieces by prominent contemporary composers in many venues, including Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Hall, Bargemusic, London’s Institute for Contemporary Art and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, collaborating with such composers as Charles Wuorinen, Ricky Ian Gordon, Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Anthony Newman and Toby Twining.

She has been a guest soloist with many of New York’s modern music ensembles, including The New York New Music Ensemble, The Cygnus Ensemble, The Group for Contemporary Music, Parnassus, the S.E.M. Ensemble, the North/South Consonance and most recently gave the premiere performance and recording of Charles Wuorinen’s "The Haroun Songbook" with members of the New York City Opera, in which she sang the title role. She has recently completed the World Premiere recording of the songs of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, which has been released on the Centaur label.

GUY KLUCEVSEK’s music/theatre scores include "Squeezeplay" – collaborations with David Dorfman and Dan Froot, Mary Ellen Childs, Dan Hurlin, Claire Porter and Victoria Marks --which was developed, in part, at MASS MoCA, and premiered at The Kitchen in March, 2000; "Hard Coal" (1999), with the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble; and "Chinoiserie" (1995), with Ping Chong & Co. He has released 12 recordings as soloist leader, including his latest, Guy Klucevsek and Alan Bern:  Accordance, on Winter & Winter.  He is a member of Dave Douglas’ band, Charms of the Night Sky, with whom he regularly tours and records.

Klucevsek has received New York Dance and Performance Awards (BESSIES) for his scores for David Dorfman Dance’s, "Hey," and Dan Hurlin’s "Everyday Uses for Sight:  No. 7."  He was also awarded a Listen Up prize for “Best Original Score of 1996 by Publishers Weekly for his music accompanying the Audio Book version of E. Annie Proulx’s novel, Accordion Crimes..

Cellist-composer TOMAS ULRICH received music degrees from Boston University and the Manhattan School of Music. Mr. Ulrich has performed with such artists as Anthony Davis, Joe Lovano, Gerry Hemingway, Derek Bailey, Anthony Braxton, Simon Shaheen, Herb Robertson, Dominic Duval, Joe McPhee, Ben Allison, Kevin Norton, Ted Nash, Uri Caine and Dave Douglas. He is also a member of the Diller-Quaile String Quartet which premiered his Quintet for Trumpet and Strings (featuring guest soloist Herb Robertson) in May of 1996. JAZZ NOW has characterized Mr. Ulrich as "the total package...incredible chops, great imagination and superb pitch. He fulfills the roles of bassist, guitarist and additional horn player and is endlessly talented and creative." Mr. Ulrich has written music for theater, film and instrumental performance and has concertized in Europe, Japan, South America, Canada and throughout the United States. His performances can be heard on over 30 CDs in a wide range of musical settings and styles.

Film Synopsis:

The film begins with the forces of the prince of darkness riding across the sky. The prince of peace, a flaming-haired angel with enormous wings, wagers the world with the prince of darkness, Mephisto. The locus of the wager is Faust, an alchemist, a scholar. Mephisto covers Faust's city with a dark cloud of plague, and in his frustration over his inability to heal his fellow citizens, Faust hurls his books into the fire and calls upon the assistance of the prince of darkness. Jannings' portrayal of Mephisto, particularly his giant form looming over Faust's city, was the inspiration for the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence in Walt Disney's Fantasia .

Through Mephisto, Faust recaptures his youth and an assistant, the trickster of tricksters himself. Both Faust and Mephisto are young men as Faust wishes for a home and is transported to the village in which Margarethe lives with her mother and brother, on leave from the army. Faust falls in love with her, but with trick upon trick Mephisto turns a sun-drenched love story into tragedy that encompasses a merciless winter storm and a burning at the stake. At the center of the film is the parallel wooing of Margarethe by Faust and Mephisto by Margarethe's Aunt Marthe. Mephisto and Marthe provide broad comedy to contrast with the earnestness of Faust's pursuit of Margarethe. Later, Martha is just as merciless as Mephisto, rejecting Margarethe when the rest of her village does.

This center of the film is perfectly framed by much darker sequences involving Faust and Margarethe alone. The first third of the film follows the trials and fall of Faust, while the last third shows what happens to Margarethe after the tragedy that strikes her as a consequence of her love for Faust.

(from John Akre’s Web of Murnau site).

Three Samples:(wait for it...)

For Worldwide Booking: Phillip Johnston

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