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Werther
Werther
is an opera (drame lyrique) in four acts by Jules Massenet
Jules Massenet
to a French libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet
Paul Milliet
and Georges Hartmann (who used the pseudonym Henri Grémont). It is loosely based on the German epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther
The Sorrows of Young Werther
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which was based both on fact and on Goethe's own early life. Earlier examples of operas using the story were made by Kreutzer (1792) and Pucitta (1802).[1]

Contents

1 Performance history 2 Roles 3 Instrumentation 4 Synopsis

4.1 Act 1 4.2 Act 2 4.3 Act 3 4.4 Act 4

5 Noted arias 6 Recordings 7 References 8 External links

Performance history[edit]

Grasset poster for 1893 French premiere of Werther

Massenet started composing Werther
Werther
in 1885, completing it in 1887. He submitted it to Leon Carvalho, the director of the Paris Opéra-Comique, that year, but Carvalho declined to accept it on the grounds that the scenario was too serious.[1] With the disruption of the fire at the Opéra-Comique
Opéra-Comique
and Massenet's work on other operatic projects (especially Esclarmonde), it was put to one side, until the Vienna
Vienna
Opera, pleased with the success of Manon, asked the composer for a new work. Werther
Werther
received its premiere on 16 February 1892 (in a German version translated by Max Kalbeck) at the Imperial Theatre Hofoper in Vienna.[1] The French-language premiere followed in Geneva
Geneva
on 27 December 1892.[2] The first performance in France was given by the Opéra-Comique
Opéra-Comique
at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Place du Châtelet in Paris on 16 January 1893, with Marie Delna
Marie Delna
as Charlotte and Guillaume Ibos in the title role, conducted by Jules Danbé, but was not immediately successful.[1] Werther
Werther
entered the repertoire at the Opéra-Comique
Opéra-Comique
in 1903 in a production supervised by Albert Carré,[1] and over the next half-century the opera was performed over 1,100 times there, Léon Beyle becoming a distinguished interpreter of Werther.[3] The United States
United States
premiere with the Metropolitan Opera
Opera
took place in Chicago
Chicago
on 29 March 1894 and then in the company's main house in New York City three weeks later.[4] The UK premiere was a one-off performance at Covent Garden, London, on 11 June 1894[2] with Emma Eames as Charlotte, Sigrid Arnoldson as Sophie, and Jean de Reszke
Jean de Reszke
in the title role. Werther
Werther
is still regularly performed around the world and has been recorded many times. Although the role of Werther
Werther
was written for a tenor, Massenet adjusted it for a baritone, when Mattia Battistini sang it in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
in 1902. It is very occasionally performed in this version, in which the changes affect only the vocal line for the title character. There are no other changes to the words, to the lines for other characters, or to the orchestration. Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 16 February 1892[5] (Conductor: Wilhelm Jahn)

Charlotte, aged 20 mezzo-soprano Marie Renard

Sophie, her sister, aged 15 soprano Ellen Forster-Brandt

Werther, a young poet, aged 23 tenor Ernest van Dyck

Albert, betrothed to Charlotte; aged 25 baritone Franz Neidl

Le Bailli, Charlotte's father; aged 50 bass Karl Mayerhofer

Schmidt, a friend of the Bailli tenor Anton Schlittenhelm

Johann, a friend of the Bailli baritone Benedikt Felix

Brühlmann, a young man tenor August Stoll

Käthchen, Brühlmann's fiancée of seven years mezzo-soprano Emma Karlona

Children of the Bailli – Fritz, Max, Hans, Karl, Gretel, Clara children's voices

Inhabitants of Wetzlar, guests, servants; off-stage women’s and children’s voices

Instrumentation[edit] 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 Oboes (doubling English horns), 2 Clarinets in B-flat and A, Alto Saxophone, 2 Bassoons, 4 Horns in F, 2 Trumpets (doubling Cornets), 3 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion (1) (Bass Drum, Triangle), Harp, Strings. Synopsis[edit]

Time: Within the period July to December, in an undefined year in the 1780s. Place: Wetzlar
Wetzlar
in Germany.

Claire Croiza
Claire Croiza
as Charlotte in 1907

Act 1[edit] In July, the widowed Bailiff (a Magistrate, rather than one who comes to seize property), is teaching his six youngest children a Christmas carol ("Noël! Jésus vient de naître"). His drinking companions, Johann and Schmidt, arrive as Charlotte, the eldest daughter, dresses for a ball. Since her fiancé Albert is away, she is to be escorted by Werther, whom the Bailiff and his companions find gloomy. Werther arrives ("O Nature, pleine de grâce"), and watches as Charlotte prepares her young siblings' supper, just as her mother had before she died. He greets her and they leave for the ball. Albert returns unexpectedly after a six-month trip. He is unsure of Charlotte's intentions and disappointed not to find her at home, but is reassured and consoled by Charlotte's younger sister Sophie. He leaves after promising to return in the morning. After an orchestral interlude, Werther
Werther
and Charlotte return very late; he is already enamoured of her. His declaration of love is interrupted by the announcement of Albert's return. Charlotte recalls how she promised her dying mother she would marry Albert. Werther
Werther
is in despair. Act 2[edit] It is three months later, and Charlotte and Albert are now married. They walk happily to church to celebrate the minister's 50th wedding anniversary, followed by the disconsolate Werther
Werther
("Un autre est son époux!"). First Albert and then Sophie ("Du gai soleil, plein de flamme") try to cheer him up. When Charlotte exits the church, he speaks to her of their first meeting. Charlotte begs Werther
Werther
to leave her, though she indicates that she would be willing to receive him again on Christmas Day. Werther
Werther
contemplates suicide ("Lorsque l'enfant revient d'un voyage"). He encounters Sophie but the tearful girl does not understand his distressing behavior. Albert now realizes that Werther
Werther
loves Charlotte. Act 3[edit]

"Va! laisse couler mes larmes"

Sung by Charlotte in Act III. Sung by Jeanette Ekornaasvaag.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Charlotte is at home alone on Christmas Eve. She spends time rereading the letters that she has received from Werther
Werther
("Werther! Qui m'aurait dit ... Ces lettres!"), wondering how the young poet is and how she had the strength to send him away. Sophie comes in and tries to cheer up her older sister ("Ah! le rire est béni"), though Charlotte is not to be consoled ("Va! laisse couler mes larmes"). Suddenly Werther appears, and while he reads to her some poetry of Ossian
Ossian
("Pourquoi me réveiller?"), he realizes that she does indeed return his love. They embrace for a moment, but she quickly bids him farewell. He leaves with thoughts of suicide. Albert returns home to find his wife distraught. Werther
Werther
sends a messenger to Albert, requesting to borrow his pistols, explaining he is going on an extended trip. After the servant has taken them, Charlotte has a terrible premonition and hurries to find Werther. An orchestral intermezzo ("La nuit de Noël") leads without a break into the final Act. Act 4[edit] "The death of Werther": At Werther's apartment, Charlotte has arrived too late to stop him from shooting himself; he is dying. She consoles him by declaring her love. He asks for forgiveness. After he dies, Charlotte faints. Outside children are heard singing the Christmas carol. Noted arias[edit]

Act 1

Werther: "O Nature, pleine de grâce"

Act 2

Werther: "Un autre est son époux!" Sophie: "Du gai soleil, plein de flamme" Werther: "Lorsque l'enfant revient d'un voyage"

Act 3

Charlotte: "Werther! Qui m'aurait dit /Ces lettres!" (Letter Scene) Charlotte: "Va! laisse couler mes larmes" Werther: "Pourquoi me réveiller?"

Recordings[edit] A well-regarded recording of the complete opera was made in January 1931 by French Columbia with a French cast and the orchestra and chorus of the Opéra-Comique
Opéra-Comique
under the direction of Élie Cohen. Henry Fogel of Fanfare magazine, writing in 1992, counted 14 complete recordings and considered it the finest of the lot.[6] His colleague, James Camner, reviewing the Opera
Opera
d'Oro reissue in 2003, called it "one of the treasures of recorded opera. ... Unfortunately, the transfer is over filtered. The high frequencies are lost, giving the performance an unwarranted flatness. Happily, Naxos offers the same recording expertly transferred by Ward Marston, and acquiring it is a must."[7] Alan Blyth, while giving a very positive review of the reissue of the recording with Albert Lance
Albert Lance
as Werther
Werther
and Rita Gorr
Rita Gorr
as Charlotte in 2004, nevertheless pointed out that "neither quite has the ideal subtlety of the best Massenet singers, such as Vallin and Thill on the classic, pre-war set, now on Naxos".[8] In addition, many of the greatest French and Italian singers of the past century or more have recorded individual arias from Massenet's masterwork.

Year Cast (Charlotte, Sophie, Werther, Albert) Conductor, Opera
Opera
House and Orchestra Label[9] Notes

1931 Ninon Vallin, Germaine Féraldy, Georges Thill, Marcel Roque Élie Cohen Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra-Comique Originally French Columbia Audio CD: Naxos 8.110061-62, Opera
Opera
d'Oro OPD 1366

1953 Pia Tassinari, Vittoria Neviani, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Marcello Cortis Francesco Molinari-Pradelli Coro di Voci Bianchi, Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino Audio CD: Warner-Fonit Cat: 8573 87494-2

1953 Suzanne Juyol, Agnes Léger, Charles Richard, Roger Bourdin Georges Sébastian Orchestra and Chorus of the Opéra-Comique Originally Nixa/Urania Audio CD: Andromeda Cat: ANDRCD 5073

1959 Leyla Gencer, Giuliana Tavolaccini, Ferruccio Tagliavini, Mario Borriello Carlo Felice Cillario Coro di Teatro Verdi di Trieste Orchestra e Coro Audio CD: Opera
Opera
d'Oro Cat: 1234 In Italian

1964 Rita Gorr, Mady Mesplé, Albert Lance, Gabriel Bacquier Jésus Etcheverry Orchestra and Chorus of the Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française CD: Accord Cat: 472 917-2

1968-69 Victoria de los Ángeles, Mady Mesplé, Nicolai Gedda, Roger Soyer Georges Prêtre Orchestre de Paris Audio CD: EMI Cat: 562 6272

1971 Virginia Zeani, Valeria Mariconda, Alfredo Kraus, Domenico Trimarchi Antonino Votto Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Massimo di Palermo Audio CD: G.O.P. Cat: 749-CD2

1979 Tatiana Troyanos, Christine Barbaux, Alfredo Kraus, Matteo Manuguerra Michel Plasson London Philharmonic Orchestra Audio CD: EMI Cat: 7 49610-2

1979 Elena Obraztsova, Arleen Augér, Plácido Domingo, Franz Grundheber Riccardo Chailly Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra Audio CD: Deutsche Grammophon Cat: 477 5652-1

1980 Frederica von Stade, Isobel Buchanan, José Carreras, Thomas Allen Sir Colin Davis Orchestra of the Royal Opera
Opera
House, Covent Garden Audio CD: Philips Cat: 416 654-2

1985 Brigitte Fassbaender, Magdéna Hajossyová (vocals), Peter Dvorský, Hans Helm (vocals) Libor Pešek Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Chorus of the Bambini di Praga (Television film directed by Petr Weigl) CD (soundtrack): Supraphon Cat: 11 1547-2 632 LD: Amadeo PHLK 7503 DVD: Image Entertainment[10]

1998 Vesselina Kasarova, Dawn Kotoski, Ramón Vargas, Christopher Schaldenbrand Vladimir Jurowski Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin Audio CD: RCA Victor Cat: 74321 58224-2

1998 Angela Gheorghiu, Patricia Petibon, Roberto Alagna, Thomas Hampson Antonio Pappano London Symphony Orchestra Audio CD: EMI Cat: EMI
EMI
81849

2005 Elīna Garanča, Ileana Tonca, Marcelo Álvarez, Adrian Eröd Philippe Jordan Vienna
Vienna
State Opera (Video of a performance in March) DVD: TDK Cat: DVWW-OPWER

2004 Susan Graham, Sandrine Piau, Thomas Hampson (baritone), Stéphane Degout Michel Plasson Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse (Video of a concert performance on 29 April) DVD: Virgin Classics Cat: 359257-9

2010 Sophie Koch, Anne-Catherine Gillet, Jonas Kaufmann, Ludovic Tézier Michel Plasson Opéra National de Paris DVD: Decca Cat: B0014794-09[11][12]

2012 Sophie Koch, Eri Nakamura, Rolando Villazón, Audun Iversen Antonio Pappano Orchestra of the Royal Opera
Opera
House Audio CD: Deutsche Grammophon Cat: 0289 477 9340 3[13]

2018 Anna Stéphany, Mélissa Petit, Juan Diego Flórez, Audun Iversen Cornelius Meister Orchestra of the Zurich Opera
Opera
House (Video of a 2017 performance) DVD / Blu-Ray: Accentus Cat: ACC10427 (Blu-Ray), ACC20427 (DVD)

References[edit] Notes

^ a b c d e Milnes R. Werther. In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Macmillan, London and New York, 1997. ^ a b Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed., 1954 ^ Wolff, Stéphane. Un demi-siècle d' Opéra-Comique
Opéra-Comique
(1900–1950). André Bonne, Paris, 1953. ^ Met Opera
Opera
database ^ Werther
Werther
page at the French Art Lyrique webpage accessed 5 September 2014. ^ Fogel, Henry (September/October 1992). Review of the recording with Georges Thill as Werther
Werther
( EMI
EMI
CHS 7 63195 2). Fanfare, 16 (1). Accessed November 16, 2010. Subscription required. ^ Camner, James (July/August 2003). Review of the recording with Georges Thill as Werther
Werther
(OPERA D’ORO OD 1366). Fanfare, 26 (6). Accessed November 16, 2010. Subscription required. ^ Blyth, Alan (March 2004). "Werther's Return". Gramophone, p. 83. Accessed November 16, 2010. ^ Recordings of Werther
Werther
on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk ^ Details of this recording of Werther
Werther
on amazon.com ^ Details of this recording of Werther
Werther
on amazon.com ^ Performance, both conductor and singers, are reviewed quite favorably by Matthew Gurewitsch in Opera
Opera
News (February 2011, p. 66). He has strong reservations about the production and the video direction, however. ^ Details of this recording of Werther
Werther
on DeutscheGrammophon.com

Sources

Upton, George; Borowski, Felix (1928). The Standard Opera
Opera
Guide. Blue Ribbon Books, N.Y. pp. 187–8.  Kobbé, Gustav (1976). The Complete Opera
Opera
Book. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 864–9.  Huebner, Steven (2006). French Opera
Opera
at the Fin de Siècle: Werther. Oxford Univ. Press, US. pp. 113–34. ISBN 978-0-19-518954-4. 

External links[edit]

Werther: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) Werther: Full orchestral score at indiana.edu

v t e

Jules Massenet

Operas

La grand'tante
La grand'tante
(1867) Don César de Bazan
Don César de Bazan
(1872) Le roi de Lahore
Le roi de Lahore
(1877) Hérodiade
Hérodiade
(1881) Manon
Manon
(1884) Le Cid (1885) Esclarmonde
Esclarmonde
(1889) Le mage
Le mage
(1891) Werther
Werther
(1892) Thaïs (1894) Le portrait de Manon
Manon
(1894) La Navarraise
La Navarraise
(1894) Sapho (1897) Cendrillon
Cendrillon
(1899) Grisélidis
Grisélidis
(1901) Le jongleur de Notre-Dame
Le jongleur de Notre-Dame
(1902) Chérubin
Chérubin
(1903) Ariane (1906) Thérèse (1907) Bacchus (1909) Don Quichotte
Don Quichotte
(1910) Roma (1912) Panurge (1913) Cléopâtre
Cléopâtre
(1914) Amadis (1922)

Oratorios

Marie-Magdeleine (1873) Ève
Ève
(1875) La Vierge (1880) La Terre Promise (1900)

Ballets

Cigale (1904) L'histoire de Manon
Manon
(arr. Leighton Lucas, 1974)

Concerto

Piano Concerto (1902)

Incidental music

Les Érinnyes

Other works

Méditation

Related articles

Cercle Funambulesque

List of compositions by Jules Massenet

v t e

The Sorrows of Young Werther
The Sorrows of Young Werther
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Films

The Novel of Werther
The Novel of Werther
(1938) Young Goethe in Love
Young Goethe in Love
(2010)

Operas

Werther
Werther
(1892)

Related literature

Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. Lotte in Weimar: The Beloved Returns Sorrows of Werther

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 183148489 LCCN: n92061556 GND: 300100140 SUDOC: 033313830 BNF: cb13916062b (data)

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