Dramatic Works

Busoni presented himself to the music world as an opera composer only rather late. Inspired between 1906 and 1911 by E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story Die Serapionsbrüder, he composed the libretto and music for a new opera titled Die Brautwahl that was premiered in 1912. Its lack of success later led him to turn the work’s material into a five-movement orchestral suite (Die Brautwahl op. 45).

The one-act theatrical capriccio Arlecchino originated during his Swiss exile. Its special feature is the assignment of the hero to a speaking role. The Arlecchino premiere took place in Zurich in May 1917, together with another of Busoni’s short operas, Turandot, whose German libretto he quickly set to music using incidental music written earlier.

It was nevertheless the opera Doktor Faust that Busoni considered his main (stage) work, after entertaining the idea of setting the Faust subject to music for about 30 years. He did not base his work on the Goethean drama, but on various other models, such as the 17th and 18th century puppet theater and the Christopher Marlowe’s Faust drama. Though Busoni began composing the work in 1916, he was unable to finish it. Using his compositional sketches, his pupil Philipp Jarnach completed the opera that was finally premiered in Dresden in May 1925, barely a year after Busoni’s death.