Massenet’s most erotically charged and emotionally visceral work presents the dazzling American mezzo Ginger Costa-Jackson as Charlotte, breaking the heart of shy poet Werther, played by Leonardo Capalbo.
Will Charlotte succumb to the ardent charms of her gentle, charming lover? Or will she stick with Albert, her dashing betrothed?
Rather than discrete arias, Massenet’s scenes flow in and out of the emotional moment: Werther’s lyrical musings on the beauty of nature, Charlotte’s dark night of the soul, lightened by Sophie’s kindly intrusion and Werther’s Ossianic peroration ‘Pourquoi me réveiller’.
Goethe wrote the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther when he was just 24 and it became an overnight sensation, read – and much copied – throughout European literary circles. Napoleon carried a copy on his Egyptian campaign, it inspired new fashions and even a perfume.
Alas, it also inspired self-harm and not only was the novel banned in Denmark and Leipzig but also the distinctive blue suit and yellow waistcoat that Werther wore.
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 ∙ IRIA PERESTRELO
ALBERT, betrothed to Charlotte, aged 25 ∙ DOMINIC SEDGWICK Sponsor Julian Hardwick
LE BAILLI, Charlotte’s father ∙ ALAN EWING Sponsor Kevin Egan & Judith Lawless
SCHMIDT, a friend of Le Bailli ∙ ROBIN HORGAN
JOHANN, a friend of Le Bailli ∙ ROSS CUMMING
ORCHESTRA ∙ THE GASCOIGNE ORCHESTRA (formerly the Garsington Opera Orchestra)