The Depressive Love of Massenet's 'Werther' is here for Your Met Opera Broadcast
Saturday, March 04, 2017
Since its premier, Massenet's Werther has established itself as one of the more dramatic and dark operas in history, and you can listen to it on Saturday at 1 pm during the Metropolitan Opera broadcast.
The story is based on Die Leiden des jungen Werther, or The Sorrows of Young Werther, by Goethe. It's a crowning achievement in tragic literature; the semi-autobiographical story tells the tale of Werther, a young poet; and the woman he loves, Charlotte. However, Charlotte is married and cannot reciprocate his affection. The ensuing depression drives Werther to suicide.
Massenet's adaptation takes several creative liberties with Goethe's original story, and the opera alters several elements to intensify the drama. The notable lack of a chorus puts additional emphasis on the power of the solo and, notably, a duet between the forlorn lovers is conspicuously absent.
When Goethe's novel was first released, its controversial content — namely the romanticized suicide — caused it to be banned in several areas, though the moral outrage surrounding the story had largely dissipated by the time Massenet completed his operatic adaptation. But as fate would have it, the Paris Opéra-Comique deemed the composer's new work a bit too depressing to premiere, and Massenet had to wait five years before a company would take up his tragic creation. However, that initial resistance has not prevented today's audiences from enjoying the work and pondering its philosophical themes of love and duty.
"Werther" is the subject of this week's He Sang, She Sang podcast. Listen here.
Conductor: Edward Gardner
Sophie: Anna Christy
Charlotte: Isabel Leonard
Werther: Vittorio Grigolo
Albert: David Bizic
Le Bailli: Maurizio Muraro