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Werther

Music Jules Massenet Text Édouard Blau & Paul Milliet & Georges Hartmann
→ Drame lyrique in vier Akten

29. November 2022
Tuesday
19.30 - 22.00
1 intermission

Cast 29.11.2022

Musical Direction Alejo Pérez
Production Andrei Serban
Scenery and Costume Design Peter Pabst
Assistant costume designer Petra Reinhardt

Details

Even though Massenet wanted to repeat the sensational success of »Manon« with »Werther«, he refused the instructions of the director of the Paris Opéra-Comique, who demanded he copy the form and style of his triumphant opera. Instead, Massenet sought new creative paths and forms of expression, which is why he both explored the work of Richard Wagner and experimented with orchestration. As such, he added to the instrumentation a saxophone solo, which enabled him to feature a seemingly proto-impressionistic musical score. That resulted in the Paris Opéra-Comique’s rejecting the work, and Massenet was forced to search for another stage, ultimately accepting an offer from the Vienna Court Opera, where »Werther« would finally have its successful premiere in 1892. In contrast to Goethe’s model, Massenet’s focus is not entirely placed on the title character but also on a – from a dramaturgical perspective – significantly elevated Charlotte. In addition to dealing with Werther's desperate love, the opera musically follows the complex psychological development of this young woman. Notably, the resulting great scope for interpretation ensures that the most important singers of each generation take on both roles: Piotr Beczała will finally embody this important part of his repertoire for the first time in Vienna and Gaëlle Arquez will make her worldwide role debut as Charlotte.


PLOT

In the middle of summer, the widowed magistrate is rehearsing Christmas carols with his young children. Werther, who comes to visit, rhapsodizes on the wonders of nature. When he sees the love that the children have for their sister Charlotte, the magistrate’s only adult daughter, he is deeply impressed. Left alone with Charlotte, he declares his love for her. However, Charlotte evades his advances and tells him of a promise she made to her dying mother: to marry Albert, her fiancé. The news arrives that Albert has returned home. In deep despair, Werther is left alone.

Several months after Albert and Charlotte’s wedding, the two rivals have occasion to talk. Albert seems to have forgiven Werther for his earlier passion. Hardly are Charlotte and Werther left alone, however, when Werther renews his protestations of love. Charlotte once again rejects him and forbids him to see her again until Christmas time. Werther rushes out, leaving Sophie, Charlotte’s fifteen-year-old sister, in tears. She is unhappily in love with him.

On Christmas Eve, Charlotte, who now realizes that she loves Werther, is reading his letters. She is alarmed by a threat contained in one of his letters to commit suicide. When Sophie joins her and talks about Werther, Charlotte collapses in tears. Shortly after Sophie leaves, Werther arrives quite unexpectedly. He demands a kiss, which Charlotte refuses him. Werther then leaves Charlotte and sends Albert a letter, asking him for his pistol. Albert duly has it sent to him.

Charlotte remembers Werther’s threats of suicide, and she rushes out to find him. However, by the time Charlotte finds him, he is already dying. Now that it is too late, she admits that she loves him. In the distance, the children are heard singing the Christmas carol that they were practising in the summer.

Sponsor

This production is sponsored by