On my continuing quest to find and prepare the best arias for auditions, I have recently learned "Salut, demeure chaste et pure" from Gounod's Faust. What a beautiful aria, and what a crazy opera! I guess if you have read Goethe's Faust Part I you know what I'm talking about.
Here is an Eric Hanson summary of the opera:
So this old guy, Faust, decides that he wants to kill himself because knowing stuff doesn't bring him any pleasure. He curses being old and decides that real happiness only comes to young people. Then poof, the devil shows up (Mephistopheles), Faust makes a deal with him that if he can be young again he will give the devil his soul (is this ever worth it to anyone?).
Of course the devil is pleased, Faust is made young, he goes to a town square full of young people, meets this girl (Marguerite) who is sister to a man about to go off to war (Valentin). The devil sings with a few of those guys including Valentin who he taunts by not showing his sister enough respect (huh?). As soon as Faust sees Marguerite he decides he must have her (that sounds familiar). As you must have guessed, another man is also in love with Marguerite (Siebel - who in real life is actually a woman as this is a pants role, but they choose to ignore that for the duration of the opera).
Faust goes to her garden, and thinks the poor little shack she lives in is just great, and sings to it (so ladies, if the tenor serenades your house, does that really work?). That is the aria I'm working on now.
To sum up the rest: After hearing Marguerite sing Faust must have her and runs to her (I'm sure the shack was full of jealousy - no aria Gounod?), she is full of guilt afterwards, her brother Valentin returns from war and finds out that Faust knocked her up, they duel, Valentin dies and while he dies he curses his sister, she goes crazy and kills her baby right after she's born (whoa), Faust visits her in prison and she goes so crazy upon seeing him that she feints and dies, and Faust ends up in the devil's service.
You see, selling your soul to the devil never works out in the end.
Here is a recording of Araiza singing the aria: