Boy meets girl. Girl is engaged to another. Cue the old three-people-in-a-marriage problem. Will Charlotte succumb to the ardent charms of Werther, her shy but charming lover? Or will she stick with Albert, her dashing betrothed? Well, since Massenet’s 1887 opera is based on Goethe’s early masterpiece, The Sorrows of Werther, the outcome may not be in doubt, but the effect and the way in which the heartrending music is transporting, is entirely unexpected.
Goethe wrote the epistolatory novel when he was 24 and it became an overnight sensation, read – and much copied – throughout European literary circles. Napoleon, carried a copy on his Egyptian campaign, and it inspired new fashions and even a perfume. Alas, it also inspired self-harm and not only the novel was banned in Denmark and Leipzig, but also the distinctive blue suit and yellow waistcoat that Werther wore.
Massenet’s score captures the intensity of first love which is shot through with a dark undertow. With Leonardo Capalbo in the role of the long-haired, impulsive romantic lover, you will be carried along as his heart soars and then plunges in despair, while Charlotte, his beloved, sung by Ginger Costa Jackson, suffers the agonies of the conflicted.
Rekindle the experience of first love – blue suits and yellow waistcoats more than welcome.
An opera in four acts
Sung in French with English surtitles
Music: Jules Massenet
Libretto: Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet & Georges Hartmann
First performance: 16 February 1892, Hofoper, Vienna
UK première: 11 June 1894, Covent Garden
Cast & Creatives
WERTHER, a young poet ∙ LEONARDO CAPALBO
CHARLOTTE, aged 20 ∙ GINGER COSTA JACKSON
SOPHIE, her sister, aged 15 ∙ LIZZIE HOLMES
ALBERT, betrothed to Charlotte, aged 25 ∙ DOMINIC SEDGWICK
LE BAILLI, Charlotte’s father ∙ ALAN EWING
CONDUCTOR ∙ CHRISTOPHER HOPKINS
DIRECTOR / DESIGNER ∙ JOHN DOYLE
COSTUME DESIGNER ∙ GABRIELLE DALTON