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Werther

Werther

MASSENET

SUMMER 2023

Introduction

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

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Cast & Creatives

WERTHER, a young poet  LEONARDO CAPALBO   
CHARLOTTE, aged 20 ∙  GINGER COSTA JACKSON
SOPHIE, her sister, aged 15LIZZIE 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

Act 1

A widowed gentleman is teaching his children a Christmas carol. Two friends arrive and the eldest daughter Charlotte dresses for a dance. Since her fiancé Albert is away, she will be escorted by Werther, a gloomy friend who writes poetry. Werther arrives and is moved to see Charlotte prepare supper, just as her dead mother had. They leave for the ball. Albert returns unexpectedly and is surprised that Charlotte is out. He will return in the morning. Werther and Charlotte return very late; he has fallen desperately in love with her. Charlotte promised her dying mother she would marry Albert. Werther is in despair.

Act 2

Three months later, Charlotte and Albert are married and are walking about the town. Werther is miserable and Sophie tries to cheer him up. Werther draws Charlotte aside and reminds her of their first meeting. Charlotte begs Werther to go away but she agrees to see him at Christmas. Albert realizes that Werther loves his wife.

Act 3

It is Christmas Eve and Charlotte rereads Werther’s letters, wondering how he is. Sophie tries to cheer up her sister. Werther arrives and reads some of his some poetry. Charlotte realizes she does indeed love him. They embrace for a moment, but she dismisses Werther who leaves with thoughts of suicide. Albert returns home to find his wife distraught. Werther sends Albert a message asking to borrow his pistols. Charlotte has a dreadful premonition.

Act 4

Charlotte arrives too late to stop Werther from shooting himself. While he is dying, she declares her love. He asks for forgiveness.

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