KulturKompasset, 1/20/10
Tomas Bagackas
Massenet: Werther, Paris, 14. Januar 2010
Jules Massenets beautiful opera WERTHER (1892) was premiered in a new Paris production January 14th 2010. The original production was premiered at Royal Operahouse, Covent Garden, London in 2004.
The tenor Jonas Kaufmann was wonderful and romantic, and to me, perfect as Werther. A very demanding and complicated role with its many sides and aspects. The tenor is nearly all the time present on stage, and it deserve that he can play and sing all the different romantic dramatic tenor specter. He is a good actor too.

Jonas Kaufmann is handsome to look at, and it is understandable to everyone in the audience, that Charlotte is falling in love with this unusual and talented man, and completely are forgetting that she is engaged to Albert, which in the first act is coming home to prepare their marriage, when she is out at a ball, where she meets Werther. - It was a gret pleasure to enjoy Jonas Kaufmann in the titelrole in one of the opera worlds most touching love stories, Werther. The vocal style does not aim at virtuosa effects, preferring as it does dialogue and dramatic interaction.

Werthers famous aria “Porqui vous me reveiller?” was a hit. The interplay between the different motifs and their relationship with the characthers establishes a parllell with Wagner´s Leitmotifs. But Massenet dont copy the idea of Wagner, he distances himself from Wagner by creating a French “fin de siecle” style, characerised by its delicasy, elegance and sensibility.

The history continues: Charlotta and Albert is being married, as Charlotta has promissed her mother to do at her mothers deadbed. Three months after their marriage they are present at a party, where also Werther is guest. Love, meetings, letters and in the end Werthers dead are some of the many romantic and dramatic sides the audience is enjoying in this opera.

In Werther the libretto follows the original text very closely. Nevertheless the importance given to Charlotte´s role is one of the essential differences, relegated to the to the bakcground in the novel, where the hero, the author of the letters, acted alone. In the opera Charlotte plays just as important role as Werther himself. The opera is clearly modelled on the Frenc conception of a typically German romance. In a style reminiscent of genre painting are the episodes linked together, therefore the feeling that we are like enjoying scenography as we see paintings, can be inspired from that.

The orchestration reflects the works overall conception. Massenets transparent musical texture is often suggestive aof chamber music, allthough he is making use of a large scale orchestra.

Together with him Sophie Koch as a very good Charlotte, this role suits her very well. Ludovic Tézier was Albert. Anne-Catherine Gillet was singing Sophie.

Orchestra National de L´Opera de Paris and Maitrise des Hauts-de-Seine and the Childrens Choir from the operahouse was splendid leaded by Michel Plasson.

The original Scenography and lightning by Charles Edvards reminded me of old fashion paintings. Christian Gasc is responsible for the good functioning and looking costumes. André Didot for light . Benoít Jacquot had take care of the regi of the performance, it worked very well.

Music by JULES MASSENET (1842-1912)

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