Saturday, September 1, 2007

MASSENET : WERTHER

Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 31st of July 2016 at 6.05 - 9 pm

Sunday  13th of April 2014 at 6.03 - 9.25
Sunday 18th of November 2012 at 3.03-5.30 pm
Sunday 10th of August 2008 at 3 - 5.20 pm
Sunday 2nd of September 2007 at 3 pm 

INTRODUCTION
COMPOSER 
SYNOPSIS
PREVIEW (AUDIO-VIDEO)
REVIEW (NYT)
REVIEW
LIBRETTO 

Massenet, WERTHER, a tragedy of thwarted love: they both know they want it from each other, but it is against the rules; three's a crowd in a marriage, so Werther is forced to withdraw; he borrows his rival's pistols, and has a duel with himself; he dies slowly enough to receive final comfort from the woman he adores.

MASSENET: Werther, an opera in four acts
2016
Werther............................Vittorio Grigolo
Charlotte.......................... Joyce DiDonato
Sophie.............................. Heather Engebretson
Albert............................... David Bizic
The Bailli......................... Jonathan Summers
Schmidt............................ François Piolino
Johann.............................. Yuriy Yurchuk
Kathchen.......................... Emily Edmonds
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Chorus & Orch/Antonio Pappano2014 
Charlotte.......................... Sophie Koch
Sophie.............................. Lisette Oropesa
Werther............................ Jonas Kaufmann
Albert............................... David Bizic
Le Bailli........................... Jonathan Summers
Schmidt............................ Tony Stevenson
Johann.............................. Philip Cokorinos
Kathchen.......................... Maya Lahyani
Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus & Orch/Alain Altinoglu (EBU)

Notice the mention of children in the cast, and so sentimentality may be suspected; they are there to sing Christmas carols in Acts 1 and 4, and they are the last voices we hear, laughing and chanting Noël. (Naughty Massenet, keeping the children up late, whereas Bizet in Carmen and Puccini in La Bohème let the kids go home to bed early.)

Massenet was a composer of romantic music with rich orchestration. Richard Strauss's slightly shrewish soprano spouse berated him for not producing music like Massenet's. It certainly has an appeal for me: I have vinyl discs of Manon (Victoria de los Angeles), Le Cid (Placido Domingo, Grace Bumbry), Esclarmonde (the only role I have actually seen Joan Sutherland in, at great expense, at ROHCG), Thaïs (not just the "meditation"), La Navarraise (Marilyn Horne, gruesome, with a mad scene), Cendrillon (Cinderella, Frederica von Stade, Nicolai Gedda), Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame (a touching tale, with a miracle and a celestial choir at the end), Thérèse (ends with a tumbril and the guillotine has Huguette Tourangeau, conducted by Richard Bonynge!), Don Quichotte (Nicolai Ghiaurov). I have heard Chérubin on the radio (what young Cherubino did after the marriage of Figaro; the Countess still has a soft spot for him).

The recording of Werther that I own has Nicolai Gedda and Victoria de los Angeles. On side 6, the tenor sings a selection from French opera, starting with Le Postillon de Longjumeau (Adam), displaying some stunning high notes. Sitting in a local record shop was a version with José Carreras and Frederica von Stade, conducted by Colin Davis, which I never persuaded myself to buy, and now, after seeing the review of it, I am in deeper grief and gloom than the unheroic hero himself.

The opera Werther is based on the German novel by Goethe, Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The sorrows of young Werther) which I studied at Sydney University, and I have never forgotten it, though I have lost my copy of it. It is autobiographical to the extent that Goethe did have an unhappy love for a woman who married another man, but someone else borrowed that man's pistols to kill himself.

Brief synopsis: (1) The Bailiff's daughter Charlotte and the melancholy poet Werther love each other, but her father wants her to marry Albert. (2) Charlotte is married to Albert, but Werther hangs around, telling her of his abiding love, though he eventually goes away. (3) Werther sends poetic letters to Charlotte, and she is reading a pile of them when he comes in and asks for a kiss, receives one as a parting gesture, and then he asks to borrow Albert's pistols (not for a duel). (4) Even with two pistols Werther has enough life left in him for the love duet (a kind of Liebestod for two); we wish you a Merry Christmas the carol-singers exclaim in glee.

Massenet’s opera Werther is based on a novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). This story was told in epistolary form: mainly letters from Werther to his friend Wilhelm, a few of them to Lotte (Charlotte), with Goethe as the editor, describing the death of Werther by suicide. It was based on Goethe’s own love (in 1772-3, when he was 23) for Charlotte Buff, a bailiff’s daughter who married Johann Christian Kestner (12 years older than herself) in 1773; in 1772, a young diplomat named Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem borrowed Kestner’s pistols and shot himself; by combining these details in this book, Goethe sublimated his own sorrows, and went on to love many other women throughout his life.

Jules Massenet (1842-1912) WERTHER (1892)
Werther (a lovesick romantic poet, aged 23) Jonas Kaufmann. 
Charlotte (his beloved, daughter of the Bailiff, 20) Sophie Koch
Sophie (her sister, 15) Anne-Catherine Gillet
Albert (fiancé then husband of Charlotte, 25) Ludovic Tézier
Orchestre de l’Opéra national de Paris, Michel Plasson
Created at Covent Garden in 2004, and filmed in 2010 at the Opéra Bastille
This was the opera that Massenet composed before Thaïs, and both concern impossible love.
English subtitles are supplied to help us interpret the French speech.
   Prelude (5 m)
   ACT 1  The house of the Bailiff, in Wetzlar, 33 km from  Frankfurt, in July, around 1780
Understand “bailiff” (der Amtmann, le bailli) as an official in charge of a district. This one is a widower with several children. He is rehearsing a Christmas carol with them (in Summer!), encouraging them not to sing raucously but sweetly. 
   His boozy gourmet friends Johann and Schmidt come by (to remind him to come to the local tavern later). Young Sophie tells them that Charlotte is getting dressed for the ball.  The three men talk about the dreamy diplomat Werther (escorting Charlotte to the ball), and about Albert (away on business, but will marry Charlotte when he returns).
   Werther arrives and listens to the happy family; he soliloquises on this paradise, and extolls Nature, full of grace,
   The Bailiff introduces Charlotte to Werther; she addresses him as Cousin. Sophie minds the children while her father is at the Golden Grape (Vivat Bacchus!) and Charlotte is at the ball.  
   Albert then arrives, after being away for six months, to surprise Charlotte. She has gone out, Sophie tells him. Albert is reassured that Charlotte still loves him, and he leaves.
   Werther and Charlotte return from the ball and he gets amorous at the garden gate.
No, her dying mother had told her to marry Albert, and it is all arranged.
   The Bailiff tells them that Albert is back! Werther is left outside in despair.
   ACT 2  The Lime Trees, in September of the same year, on a Sunday.
Vivat Bacchus!  Johann and Schmidt are praising God and drinking outside the church and the tavern.
   Albert and Charlotte come and sit under the trees. They have been married for three months and are very happy together.
   Werther appears and is sad when he sees their intimacy. Albert approaches him, and Werther speaks of friendship towards the married couple.
   Sophie accosts the two men gaily, then goes off with Albert.
    Werther goes up to Charlotte. She tells him to find another woman to love.
(We can all see Sophie as the solution!) Come and visit us at Christmas.
    Werther ruminates alone at length till Sophie comes and tells him they are all waiting for him to join the procession. He exclaims that he is leaving for ever. Sophie bursts into tears; she had been so happy till that happened. Albert studies Charlotte’s reaction and realizes that Werther loves her.


Sunday 18th of November 2012 at 3.03-5.30 pm

INTRODUCTION
COMPOSER
REVIEW
REVIEW
LIBRETTO

MASSENET: Werther, an opera in four acts
Werther........................ Rolando Villazón
Bailiff.......................... Alain Vernhes
Charlotte...................... Sophie Koch
Sophie.......................... Eri Nakamura
Albert........................... Audun Iversen
Schmidt....................... Stuart Patterson
Johann.......................... Darren Jeffrey
Brühlmann................... Zhengzhong Zhou
Käthchen..................... Anna Devin
Hans............................. Jack Sullivan
Gretel........................... Valerie Zakharov
Karl.............................. Pierce Adams
Clara............................ Kitty Woods
Max.............................. Harry Oakes
Fritz............................. Nico Taylor
Orch of Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Antonio Pappano  
(DG 477 9340)

Sunday 10th of August 2008 at 3 - 5.20 pm
MASSENET: Werther, an opera in four acts
Werther........................ Giuseppe Filianoti
Le Bailli......................... Gianfranco Montresor
Charlotte....................... Sonia Ganassi
Sophie.......................... Adriana Kucerova
Albert........................... Giorgio Caoduro
Schmidt......................... Enzo Peroni
Johann.......................... Vittorio Prato
Teatro Carlo Felice Chorus & Orch/Alain Guingal
(recorded in Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa by Italian Radio)


Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 2nd of September 2007 at 3 pm
MASSENET: Werther, an opera in four acts
Werther........................ Neil Schicoff
Albert........................... Adrian Eröd
Charlotte....................... Vesselina Kasarova
Sophie.......................... Laura Tatulescu
Bailiff............................ Alfred Sramek
Schmidt......................... Benedikt Kobel
Johann.......................... Clemens Unterreiner
Children of the Vienna State Opera School,
Vienna State Opera Chorus & Orch/Marco Armiliato

The following links (Metropera archives) are now inaccessible
COMPOSER
 
BACKGROUND
FOREGROUND
CHARACTERS
SYNOPSIS
STORYLINE
ANALYSIS
LIBRETTO

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