The Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast of the French composer Massenet’s opera “Werther,” based on Goethe’s novel, “The Sorrows of Young Werther,” will be shown at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge on Saturday, March 15, beginning at 11 a.m.
The novel and the opera present a tender love story of a poet who would rather die than be without the woman he loves. However, intrigue and operatic drama arise when the woman Werther comes to love, Charlotte, sung by Sophia Koch, happens to be engaged and ultimately married to Army sergeant Albert, now on duty, sung by basso David Bizic.
In keeping with many current productions, updating to more modern staging of operas set in past history, the producer of this Met opera, Richard Eyre, has set the action in the late 19th century. The curtain rises prematurely and video scrim projections portray the death of the country farm Bailiff’s wife, also Charlotte’s mother, acted out in silence, making known her death vow that Charlotte should become Albert’s wife.
Then, shortly after the opening scene of Act I, in which the mansion Bailiff is seen conducting a children’s chorus singing “A Christmas Carol,” the poet Werther appears. After singing an aria in awe of the local scene, Werther is assigned by the Bailiff to accompany Charlotte, in Albert’s absence, to a local ball. Albert then unexpectantly appears, being advised by sister Sophia, sung by soprano Lisette Oropesa, that Charlotte is out for the evening. Sophia later reveals her intuition that Charlotte is not as settled on marriage to Albert as she claims to be.
At the close of the act, Werther and Charlotte return and sing a duet in which their attraction to each other is expressed. However, Charlotte indicates that she is betrothed to Albert in keeping with her mother’s vow. Werther sings that she must comply but, in so doing, outbursts “I shall die.”
Act II, proceeding without intermission, is set three months later after Charlotte and Albert have been married. After Werther makes another attempt at seduction, Charlotte indicates that he must leave. Werther, again expressing contemplation of suicide, convinces Albert of love for his wife.
Act III opens in Charlotte’s room, where she is reading dejected letters written to her by Werther. Werther arrives with seduction in mind, but upon being again rejected, leaves requesting one of Walter’s pistols. At the end of the opera, Charlotte in distress goes to Werther’s quarters to find him mortally wounded. She declares her love, as he begs forgiveness and dies in her arms.
From all accounts, this new production of Massenet’s Werther, with its superb singing, acting, staging and orchestration, promises to be an exceptional opera experience.