When to see it
These events are part of the Summer 2016 season.
Werther loves Charlotte, but she promised her mother on her deathbed that she would marry Albert. After the marriage Charlotte suggests that Werther should travel – but not forget her.
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Jules Massenet began thinking about making an opera from Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1774; The Sorrows of Young Werther) as early as 1880, before he started work on Manon – though in his memoirs he claimed inspiration came in 1886 during a visit to Bayreuth to see Wagner’s Parsifal. He began the score in 1885 and finished it in 1887, but Werther’s premiere did not come until 1892, when the Vienna Hofoper requested another Massenet work after the success of the local premiere of Manon. It has been a permanent part of the international repertory since 1903. Werther and Manon have proved Massenet’s most enduringly popular works.
The excellent libretto, prepared by Edouard Blau and Paul Milliet, distills Goethe’s Romantic masterpiece – their shortened version intensifies Goethe’s depiction of two passionate people each intent on hurting the other. Its spareness affords Massenet the opportunity to make his music not only delve into the psyches of the central couple but also describe the damage they cause to Sophie and Albert. The score displays Massenet’s gift for melody, with the ‘Clair de lune’, ‘Lied d’Ossian’ and Charlotte’s ‘Prière’ now some of his most loved music. Director Benoît Jacquot’s 2004 production for The Royal Opera, with elegant set designs by Charles Edwards, makes manifest the opera’s theme of keeping up appearances while torrid passions rage beneath.
News and features
2 March 2016
The mezzo-soprano discusses singing the role of Charlotte in Massenet's tragic opera.
15 February 2016
The Italian tenor is excited to return to the Royal Opera House in one of his favourite roles.
14 December 2015
Opera is one of many art forms that loves to dwell on what might have been.
29 October 2015
Death finds an entirely new expression in Georg Friedrich Haas’s new opera Morgen und Abend.
15 April 2015
Live Cinema Season 2015/16 includes 6 Royal Opera and 6 Royal Ballet productions screened live in cinemas across the world.