The Depressive Love of Massenet's 'Werther' is here for Your Met Opera Broadcast

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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Isabel Leonard as Charlotte and David Bizic as Albert in Massenet's 'Werther.' Isabel Leonard as Charlotte and David Bizic as Albert in Massenet's 'Werther.' (Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)

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


Comments [13]

Barbara App from 1036 Park Ave

I so enjoyed this opera. Just wonderful!

And so pleased that I can listen in the comfort of my living room....

Mar. 04 2017 03:58 PM
Juan from Canada

Grigolo sounds like he is singing to show the extreme vibration he can produce... And, that destroys the beauty of the aria.

Mar. 04 2017 03:48 PM
Michael from hudson valley

Is the difficulty or impossibility of voting on comments here a tech glitch or deliberate result? iow, despite the appearance, Someone decided we really don't want voting. I have viewed hundreds of posts and don't recall ever seeing a single vote. Everyone here agrees 100% it is undesirable? LOL.
I might have tried 2 or 3 times (log in or whatever), never works.
It's not the result I object to. It's all the time wasted by people due to misleading appearance.

Mar. 04 2017 03:01 PM
Concetta Nardone from Nassau

Some very nice music in this one. Depressing story on a depressing day, weather wise. Waiting for the hit single.
Then, will listen to my cd of Barber of Seville. I can really use some Rossini.

Mar. 04 2017 02:40 PM
Steve L from Morristown, NJ

Grigolo is a magnificent stylist with phrasing and diction to match. He is a true superstar who reminds me of the late Nicolai Gedda. By the way, Gedda's recent passing was not acknowledged on WQXR website.

Mar. 04 2017 02:17 PM
Chris Bergen from Rhinebeck, NY

Who writes these things?

Novels are published, not released.
And "it's controversial contents" instead of "its"?


Mar. 04 2017 12:18 PM
Fred Day from Orlando, Florida

According to the Met broadcast guide, David Bizic is singing the role of Albert. Grigolo sings the title role only. Enjoy the broadcast. I will.

Mar. 04 2017 11:34 AM
Trevor from Massapequa

Digitalis alert! I was at the Wednesday night performance and when the gunshot goes off late in Act III (lots of tired operagoers were nodding off), quite a few people jumped into the air! There was a spoiler alert in the program but it still took many people by surprise.

Mar. 04 2017 10:41 AM
Trevor from Massapequa

Has anyone else noticed how the opening of "Pourquoi me reveiller" (Werther's great Act III aria) sounds exactly like "Ta-ra-ra-boompty-aye"?

Mar. 04 2017 10:29 AM
Trevor from Massapequa

Favorite opera "Weather"??? I would be happy hearing Vittorio Grigolo singing Werther, Albert, Charlotte and Sophie. The Met just announced he will be replacing Jonas Kaufmann as Cavaradossi in next year's new Tosca.

Mar. 04 2017 10:24 AM
Concetta Nardone from Nassau

Bravo for Weather.
Weather sings the most beautiful tenor aria ever written.
I hope the tenorino Grigolo sings it well.

Mar. 04 2017 10:23 AM

Welcome to the digital age, an ongoing festival of stupidity. My favorite opera, "Weather," starring Vittorio Grigolo as both "Weather" and Albert, truly a historic feat. Do we thank autocorrect for this? And perhaps an unpaid intern provided the cast list? So much is accomplished by unpaid interns these days. Well, you get what you pay for.

Mar. 04 2017 09:52 AM
Mickey from Richmond VA

The cast list on has Grigolo singing both Weather and Albert. He is singing the title character, Weather.

Mar. 04 2017 09:38 AM

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