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  • Watch: 'Life and death on the stage' — The overwhelming emotional experience of Massenet's Werther

Watch: 'Life and death on the stage' — The overwhelming emotional experience of Massenet's Werther

Joyce DiDonato, Vittorio Grigòlo and members of the cast and creative team share their thoughts on what makes this French opera a masterpiece.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

28 June 2016 at 3.22pm | 4 Comments

'It's a tragedy, a grand tragedy and we love that in the opera,' Joyce DiDonato smiles as she shares her thoughts on Massenet's heart-wrenching work, Werther.

The American mezzo-soprano is currently performing on the Covent Garden stage in the role of Charlotte, a young girl who makes a promise to her mother on her deathbed that she will marry a man named Albert.

A decision, Joyce believes, she would be happy to stick with until her life is turned upside-down by the arrival of a romantic young poet:

'She's very practical, and she's not bitter about anything; it's a normal existence and it's fine,' she explains. 'And then this hurricane, Werther, arrives in this small town and I think he unlocks this world to her that sincerely she didn't even know existed.'

It's love at first sight as soon as Werther, sung by Vittorio Grigòlo, arrives on the scene. The blossoming romance between them creates a devastating dilemma for Charlotte: should she choose between life as she knows it, or her newfound feelings of passion?

Director Benoît Jacquot explains the appeal of this mysterious character: 'He's a poet and he's always dreaming: dreaming of the world, dreaming of Charlotte. He is in a dream - becoming a nightmare.'

It's this tragic conflict that Massenet uses to his advantage in his music.

'Massenet has tried to capture a dark palette for this music, certainly orchestrally speaking,' Music Director of The Royal Opera Antonio Pappano says, 'but it also has limpid, and lovely lyric moments. The way they're done could only be written by a French composer.'

'It needs this passion of the top coming off the volcano,' Joyce adds. 'It feels like life and death on the stage.'

Werther runs until 13 July 2016. Tickets are still available.

The production is generously sponsored by BB Energy and is given with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Susan A. Olde OBE, The Taylor Family Foundation, Susan and John Singer, Spindrift Al Swaidi and the Maestro’s Circle.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

28 June 2016 at 3.22pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged Antonio Pappano, Benoît Jacquot, by Benoît Jacquot, cinema, interview, Joyce DiDonato, jules massenet, Production, Vittorio Grigolo, werther

This article has 4 comments

  1. Annette Nicholas responded on 28 June 2016 at 8:10pm Reply

    Werther viewed Live at Everyman Cinema.
    The whole experience was great from Simon Callow to Benoit and all the players in the Opera.
    Few characters.with scenes devoid of crowds
    was at first out of the ordinary as per Manon
    As mentioned the scenes were snap shots - paintings of Velasquez of females ,objects lit by proximity to windows- Very satisfying. Hope to check the Free Werther document and obtain others in future

  2. Catherine responded on 29 June 2016 at 5:11pm Reply

    I was disappointed, I felt that the scenery and the stage direction was so contrived and dominant that it distracted from the opera by trying to tell the story visually.
    This was not helped by the poor camera work. I wonder when camera operators realise that selecting skin close ups does not help, but take away from an operatic experience, which we are desperately trying to find in our cinema seats far from The Opera House.

    • Carol responded on 9 July 2016 at 3:01pm

      I agree about the camera work. Anyone who has worked on a stage knows that the closeups are often not very advantageous.
      One perspires, needs to swallow or clear the throat and is constantly aware of this "eye" which is not there during a normal performance. Please no or few closeups.

  3. Silvia responded on 9 July 2016 at 10:36pm Reply

    Sad to say about cinema performance: the unpolite camerawork and rather distorted sound transmission - opera singers are singing, hard working actors - the magic of opera had been lost in permanent close-ups...
    Happy to say about 6 Juillet performance:
    wonderful voices with phantastic maestro Pappano, perfect FrenchOpera in UK !!

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