[Met Performance] CID:12960
Werther {2} Metropolitan Opera House: 04/19/1894.


Metropolitan Opera House
April 19, 1894

Massenet--╔. Blau/Milliet/G. Hartmann

Werther.................Jean de Reszke
Charlotte...............Emma Eames
Albert..................Jean Martapoura
Sophie..................Sigrid Arnoldson
Bailiff.................Agostino Carbone
Schmidt.................Pedro Guetary
Johann..................Antonio De Vaschetti

Conductor...............Luigi Mancinelli

Review in the New York Herald:

Jean de Reszke as Werther

Massenet's Opera Sung for the First Time in This City at the Metropolitan

And so, after months of weary waiting, we have finally heard Massenet's 'Werther' too. A most charming work, I should say, which will undoubtedly grow upon the listener with repeated hearing, but not a great one.

The tumultuous applause which rang through the Metropolitan Opera House was evoked not alone by the work in hand, but to a large extent by the impassioned tones and acting of Jean de Reszke, but the sweet and gentle embodiment of Mme. Eames (who realized the Goethe ideal in look and manner as quite fully as did M. de Reszke) and by the sincerity which marked the efforts of everyone concerned.

Yet it will be interesting to watch the reception of the same work in times to come, say even at the beginning of the next season, when there will be no thoughts of the sweet sorrow of parting, and when all artisitc linen will again have become so immaculate as to need no washing even in private.

I, for my part, have but little faith in the ultimate popularity of 'Werther.'

At time it is just a bit too fine for the masses, and agin it is a trifle tiresome for all classes of opera goers.

Were it not for a certain rustic humor, which reflects admirably the humor we find in many a page fo the score of the 'Meistersinger,' and for an exquisite romance here and there, the first half of this opera would drag along wearily enough.

Of course, the fault lies in the subject itself, for stirring as Goethe's 'Werther' remains to the present day it is not the sort of story which lends itself gracefully or effectively to an operatic text. Indeed no one with an instinct for what is interesting upon the stage would for a moment dream of turning an epistolary diary into a libretto.

Massenet, once he had set to work, must have thought as much himself, must have felt hampered by the lack of action, by the one-sidedness of the characters of his hero and heroine. From the moment that Werther and Charlotte meet in the first act until the curtain falls on the last, they love and love and love, unhappily, to be sure, but constantly for all that. This is not the most grateful of tasks for a dramatic composer, and the result is that one feels as if an opera had been built around a book of exquisite romance and love duets.

In the second half of the work, however, the composer is more in his element. The pulse of the music becomes at times positively feverish, and the listener is not infrequently worked up to a rare pitch of excitement. Indeed the final act would be altogether entrancing were it not for an ending that is lamentably weak. Werther bleeding to death, Charlotte leaning over him in an ecstasy of woe, and children in the street singing a Christmas carol, which grates upon the ear, whereupon the tragedy comes not to an end so much as to a stop.

Jean de Reszke as Werther would have satisfied not Massenet alone, but Goethe himself, I do believe so thoroughly did he identify himself with the sorrows of the hero who caused all Europe to weep. His first romance, 'O, Nature,' was sung with a beauty of sentiment, a polish of style and a sincerity of manner that were enchanting, and the violent outburst which marked his delivery of the passage beginning 'Un autre est son epoux' positively sent a thrill through the listeners. In Mme. Eames he found a charming partner, one who, like himself, believes rather in the strong, bold outlines than in the petty details of a role. She looked the part of Charlotte to the life, and in the duet of the third act was as melodious and as convincing as it is possible to be.

A word of praise, too, for Mme. Arnoldson, who enacted the insignificant part of Sophie with such sprightliness as to raise it to a prominence it would not otherwise have had.

As for the orchestra it often gave Signor Mancinelli such trouble that he had to emphasize his baton not only with his looks, but with his voice as well.


For a premiere the stage at the Metropolitan Opera House last evening looked rather deserted.

Usually the wings are crowded with the disengaged members of the company. You will generally see individuals belonging to the corps de ballet practicing some exercise, some step, some figure. Then in another group the chorus will gather. Some will be standing other lolling about, but in any and in every case they will be talking in a sort of muffled whisper. Generally the subject will be the principal artists, for there is no keener observer or more attentive listener than an experienced theatrical chorister. He has generally had a varied career in the capitals of the world and a mass of drolly assorted souvenirs to draw upon.

But last evening most of the artists who were not singing in Werther were giving Carmen in Albany. Planšon, who is an assiduous attendant at the opera, was laid up with a cold. The ballet, the chorus and a host of figurants were also in Albany.

So that the stage presented an odd air of quietude.

It was only in the last act that there was really any commotion. Up to this moment the stage manager, Mr. William Parry, had been standing careless, calm, even slightly bored in appearance, as though a long acquaintance with the chefs d'oeuvre of operatic music had wearied him.

The curtain goes up, disclosing the interior of Charlotte's home.

Now Mr. Parry begins to look round to see that his men are at their posts. He calls to the electrician to see that he is on the alert. You hear the voices of Albert and Charlotte--Albert, somber and threatening; Charlotte imploring and terrified.

There is a shriek. You can distinguish Charlotte's agonized apostrophe, 'Dieu! tu ne voudras que j'arrive tron tard' The door at the back of the scene opens. Charlotte rushes out into the winter's night. And--like a flash the entire scene is plunged in total darkness.

There is a rush of busy workers for a couple of instants. Each man seems to know his piece by touch, for it is impossible to see your hand before you.

Light dispels the gloom and you see a fascinating wintry landscape. Snow is everywhere. It covers the houses, in whose windows you see the warm reflection of the cheery Yuletide fires. It lies thickly upon the trees. It forms a soft carpet upon the ground. And all the while it falls gently from on high, giving a marvelous air of truth to the picture.

Charlotte crosses the stage. Again total darkness reigns for a second. Again the stage manager gives a few rapid orders. Again there is a little company of men working at fever heat. And the darkness, clearing away, shows Werther lying, wounded to death, in his own room.

It looks like magic, so quickly has the change been made.

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