Goethe famously declared that the only composer able to do justice to his epic drama Faust was Mozart - by that point inconveniently deceased. So Gounod's effort to portray the masterpiece in music has always laboured under the mighty poet's curse.
The Curse has already struck Vittorio Grigolo - literally - in the general rehearsal for Covent Garden's current Faust. The lid of a chest crashed down on his head in the final moments and knocked him out. It was just one in a succession of prop problems which bedevilled the rehearsal, including a staircase that wouldn't stay put and a slipping tiara. When it came to the first night, Grigolo somehow dodged further calamity. But a Jesus statue failed to spout blood as required, leaving a host of Satanic disciples looking slightly bonkers as they supped pure air and smeared handfuls of nothing across their faces.
Faust veteran Roberto Alagna is no stranger to The Curse. Shortly before the Vienna premiere of Nicolas Joel's Toulouse production in 2008, the set designer died, and the director himself suffered a stroke so severe it left him out of action for months. Then Mrs Alagna pulled out, citing illness (though considering her track record, it may be unfair to point the finger at Goethe). Roberto soldiered on with the show, even though he too was sick and vocally below par.
So how's Roberto's latest Faust, in Paris, doing? Well, after a flurry of mutual finger-pointing, the tenor has already seen off the originally-booked conductor. As for The Curse part deux, the production has fallen victim to that Frenchest of phenomena, a strike. Technical staff downed tools before last night's premiere, rendering the planned staging impossible. Instead the cast lined up in evening dress and gave a concert performance. At least Alagna himself escaped diabolical intervention - according to ForumOpera.com, he sang fabulously.
The next Faust on the books is Jonas Kaufmann's at the Met - for which some might say Des McAnuff's bizarre 'atom bomb' production is curse enough.