[Met Performance] CID:350867
Werther {69} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/06/2004.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 6, 2004


WERTHER {69}
Massenet-Blau/Milliet/Hartmann

Werther....................Roberto Alagna
Charlotte..................Vesselina Kasarova
Albert.....................Christopher Schaldenbrand
Sophie.....................Lyubov Petrova
Bailiff....................Paul Plishka
Schmidt....................Ronald Naldi
Johann.....................LeRoy Lehr
Käthchen...................Alexandra Newland
Brühlmann..................Robert Maher

Conductor..................Jacques Lacombe

Stage Director.............John Cox
Designer...................Rudolf Heinrich

Review of John Freeman in the April 2004 issue of OPERA NEWS

Met revivals of "Werther" (this one seen at its second performance, Jan. 6) inevitably call to mind Franco Corelli, for whom the Rudolf Bing administration and set/costume designer Rudolf Heinrich created the current production in the 1970-71 season. In fact, the premiere of this season's revival was dedicated to the late tenor. This time around, the limelight fell on Roberto Alagna - a less striking stage presence than Corelli, but a more idiomatic French stylist. With his [first] solo, "O Nature," Alagna showed an intense, but warm, sound that swelled and ebbed, shaping the lines with natural grace. As the aria expanded toward its rhapsodic end, the tenor also showed a predisposition toward singing to the audience what this self-absorbed character is really supposed to be singing to himself.

By the same token, Alagna's old-fashioned dramatics (arms flung wide, or hands clasped to his bosom) helped his depiction of a hero of the Romantic Era, an impressionable, immature, self-dramatizing young man, poorly relating to the others onstage. The grainy texture of his voice lent itself well to a generous emphasis on legato. The other big lyric moment, "Pourquoi me réveiller" (Act III, Scene 1), put forth more evidence of Alagna's instinct for unfolding seamless phrases with elegiac rise and fall. (How he clung to that final note!) The score afforded him plenty of chances to sing softly, to persuasive effect. In general, his singing was assured and comfortable throughout the range (except for an occasional high note pitched on the sharp side), consistently expressive in both verbal and musical phrase - this was a star turn that served the opera quite as well as it served the artist.

His partner, Bulgarian mezzo Vesselina Kasarova, sang with poise and controlled intensity, as the role of Charlotte requires. With her firm, dusky tone, ample sound and secure placement, she could convey repression and deep distress without overemphasis. Her acting was more restrained than her singing, seldom going much beyond kneading of the hands and knotting of the eyebrows. Her tone toward Werther seemed more that of a disapproving governess than of a young woman drawn emotionally beyond her depth. Both she and Alagna finally allowed themselves a free outburst of passion in the final scene, but perhaps her most convincing moment was the exchange in Act III with Sophie, played with flexible tone and good-hearted flightiness by Lyubov Petrova. Massenet's depiction of the teenage sister's fresh superficiality sets up an emotional chemistry, a counterpoint that unlocks Charlotte for the release she badly needs in "Va! laisse couler mes larmes."

Charlotte's husband, Albert, casts scarcely more than a shadow. Briefly sympathetic to Werther in Act II, he runs out of patience and turns hostile in Act III. Christopher Schaldenbrand, an affable baritone, young in appearance and tone, handled the first part of the assignment more effectively than the second, which calls for Albert to come across as cold and threatening. LeRoy Lehr's expansive Johann and Ronald Naldi's perky Schmidt provided moments of laid-back humor in the genre scenes, with Paul Plishka as a woofy Bailiff, Robert Maher and Alexandra Newland lightweight as the distinctly marginal soubrette couple, Brühlmann and Käthchen.

Jacques Lacombe, principal guest conductor of the Montreal Symphony, made his Met debut this season with "Werther," in place of the scheduled Michel Plasson. Apart from an occasional indulgence of the star tenor (stretching out the end of "Mais, comme après l'orage" in Act II, for example), Lacombe's reading was fluent and idiomatic, soliciting lush colors and textures from Massenet's crafty orchestration. The Rudolf Heinrich designs, like the singers' rendition of staging originated by John Cox, and like "Werther" itself, evoke Goethe's vanished era - except for the yellow Industrial Revolution smog of the Act II sky, which Schmidt hails as "le ciel si bleu."



Added Index Entries for Subjects and Names


Back to short citation(s).