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The first performance took place in Milan, at the Teatro alla Scala, on March 5, 1868, conducted by Boito himself, but it ended in a sensational fiasco, perhaps due, in addition to the excessive length of the work, to the strongly ideological content of some episodes, then suppressed. The work was then reduced and reworked by the author, who among other things transposed the part of Faust for tenor, originally for baritone; moreover, the figure of Margaret assumes central importance in the context of Faust's saving drama. The new version was successfully staged at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna on October 4, 1875, conducted by Emilio Usiglio in the presence of the composer.
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