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Your Reaction: Massenet's Werther

What did you think of Benoît Jacquot’s Royal Opera production of Massenet’s operatic tragedy?

By Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer)

20 June 2016 at 10.43am | 29 Comments

Press reviews:
Telegraph ★★★★
Times ★★★★
The Stage ★★★★
Independent ★★★★
WhatsOnStage ★★★★
Financial Times ★★★★
Express ★★★★
Music OMH ★★★★
Bachtrack ★★★

What did you think of Werther?
Share your thoughts via the comments below.

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

The production will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 27 June 2016. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list.

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 Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer)

20 June 2016 at 10.43am

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by Benoît Jacquot, Joyce DiDonato, Production, review, Social Media, Tony Pappano, twitter, Vittorio Grigolo, werther, your reaction

This article has 29 comments

  1. Patrick John Gordon Shaw responded on 20 June 2016 at 11:06am Reply

    Magnificent singing and orchestra - particularly from Mesdames DiDonato et Engebretson - whose French was audible and intelligible throughout!

  2. Coppelia responded on 20 June 2016 at 11:10am Reply

    Vittorio on top entertaining form and enjoyed Heather Engebretson’s singing as a particularly ebullient Sophie. Yes the treacle-y love triangle plot leaves your brain aching for some complexity by Act II..but when VG launches into full gale force mode you get swept up in the melodrama. His voice seems to fit ROH like a glove. Excellent milking of the curtain call too, god bless him.

  3. Ditlev responded on 20 June 2016 at 11:55am Reply

    I'm afraid I can't agree. This role brings out the worst in DiDonato - the thin, tremulous, frequently sharp top register becomes more pronounced and bleat-like when she applies pressure. There were some frankly unpleasant sounds in the third act when the going got tough, and elsewhere she was too bland to be moving. As for Grigolo, the absence of a straightforward, well-supported, firm musical line continues to compromise his singing for me. Even if it's less pronounced than a few years ago, the hysterical fluctuation between pp and ff robs the music of expressive range very quickly - and the voice itself is nothing especially beautiful. I found the audience's wild cheering of this 3 star show frankly baffling.

    • Anastasia responded on 20 June 2016 at 1:11pm

      Thank you for echoing my impressions. I found the ovation given to Joyce DiDonato astounding. She is the worst Charlotte I have ever heard and in the last act she simply lost control of her voice. Maestro Pappano had a very tricky job in the pit: he and the ROH orchestra were the stars of the performance.

  4. jr.walkley responded on 20 June 2016 at 11:57am Reply

    A wonderful production: clear, simple, attractive. A rare treat nowadays..

  5. Liane Bierau responded on 20 June 2016 at 1:30pm Reply

    I had seen this production before in Paris and liked it very much. Both di'Donato, my favourite soprano, and Grigolo sung and acted beautifully. I had never noticed before how big Grigolo's voice is. Without great effort it rings above the orchestra and I also have the feeling that Covent Garden suits him particularly well. Pappano, as always the best. The immense applause at the end was well deserved.

  6. Philip Sides responded on 20 June 2016 at 4:01pm Reply

    Beautiful staging, wonderful and committed singing throughout and the orchestra playing at its best. A wonderful afternoon.

  7. Robert Garbolinski responded on 20 June 2016 at 6:13pm Reply

    Good principals and conductor and orchestral playing efficient production. Beautiful last scene with the snow only to have it RUINED by turning off the lighting on the snow and altering the lighting at least four times on the box of a room obviously because some idiot lighting designer though it concentrates the action but it completely ruined the atmosphere and scene.

  8. Strange time for a first performance. The Production was very understandable. I did not know the Opera. Although I had seen the John Copley ENO production with Janet Baker.
    I thought Vittorio Grigolo was sensational.
    The Orchestra was fabulous.
    I loved the whole show.

  9. Alan Evison responded on 20 June 2016 at 8:49pm Reply

    Superb! It's flowing and full of passion, absolutely dependent on excellent performances from the two main leads - which we got in spades - and wonderful playing from the orchestra - ditto! Grigio was a revelation! Looking forward to seeing him in 'Les Contes D'Hoffmann'!

  10. Annemieke Wielinga responded on 21 June 2016 at 12:45am Reply

    I had been wondering about this opera for a long time. Finally went with a friend completely new to opera. She loved it. I listened to lots of recording of Werther. I think Joyce Didonato sang a wonderfull Charlotte, but she make different choices compared to other singers.
    She certainly did not lose controle of her voice at any called acting

  11. Margaret White responded on 21 June 2016 at 12:52pm Reply

    I didn't know it before, but absolutely loved it - wonderful singing, and act 3 was so moving - I was in tears. Terrific.

  12. Carole Eyre responded on 21 June 2016 at 5:20pm Reply

    Only seen this live streamed from the Met previously. LOVED this production - two of my favourite singers and of course Maestro Pappano. Wonderfully sung and acted and heartbreaking in the end. More like this please

  13. Judith Scammell responded on 22 June 2016 at 9:09am Reply

    I loved it. Wonderful intense performances from Joyce DiDonato & Vittorio Griglio which broke my heart. Massenet’s music is so beautiful and thank you too to Antonio Pappano and the orchestra for their beautiful playing.
    I was swept along on a tide of glorious music and emotion until the seemingly inevitable conclusion – my heart ached, and I think the audience’s did too, hence our reaction at the end.

    And we love Joyce DiDonato, for her dedication to her art, her humanity and her integrity. Opera needs artists like Joyce – the world does. Thankfully I could also include other performers like Joyce who also have the same qualities but I think I have probably said too much already so will finish here. How lucky am I to be going again :).

  14. Marina Gratsos responded on 25 June 2016 at 4:46pm Reply

    Incandescent singing on 24th from DiDonato in particular. A few reviews on first night said the two needed to settle into their debut roles and by 24th they sang as if they had done it forever. DiDonato doesn't act - she vanishes and Charlotte appears. No ego, no posturing, no phony emoting. Every fibre of her being becomes her character. Combined with her flawless vocal technique, superb diction and rich, creamy, tone, her voice sends chills down your back. We were slightly restless during Act 1 which frankly is not exciting or particularly interesting, Act 2 perked up and although we admired Grigolo'so outstanding voice I was always conscious of his acting which was rather hammy. But Joyce's appearance and Act 3 aria sent us all into tears where I stayed till the end. Every tiny gesture and facial expression no matter how understated made you cry and lament with her rather than admiring from a distance. No wondee she is almost certainly the greatest lyric mezzo of our time. Pappano has to be arguably the greatest opera conductor there is and the orchestra was flawless. The second roles were good, particularly Albert. So a massive treat for audiences who were bowled over. Particularly on a night when the country was so divided, the warmth, humanity and sheer perfection of the two main stars warned body and soul and reminded us that there is beauty and great artistry in the world.

  15. S responded on 26 June 2016 at 8:23pm Reply

    Lovely performance esp from Joyce. One little thing though- there was a misspelling of the word "pour" in Act 3 (the subtitles read 'pore' which doesn't make sense the the context).

    • Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager) responded on 27 June 2016 at 10:30am

      Hi Sandy,

      Thanks for your comment and glad to hear that you enjoyed the performance. The surtitles at that point read 'These books, how often we would pore over them together’, which I think is correct, though do let me know if I've misunderstood.

      All best,

  16. wendy bulman responded on 26 June 2016 at 10:21pm Reply


  17. Raphael Camillo responded on 30 June 2016 at 9:54pm Reply

    Three days have passed and I'm still reeling from Monday's performance. I loved seeing DiDonato in the role of Charlotte. Her light lyric mezzo is a perfect fit for sweet Charlotte. As usual, her singing is so responsive to the text and the music, and what a superb actress she is! Grigolo is a really fine, expressive singer, though his French singing isn't exactly the most idiomatic. Engebretson and Bizic were excellent as Sophie and Albert respectively. The Royal Opera Orchestra played delightfully under Maestro Pappano's masterful reading of the score. Last, but certainly not least, the production was brilliant! Simple and traditional, yet very effective. It's so refreshing to see a production that doesn't mess up with the libretto and the music. Now, if only every production was like this...

  18. James Gordon responded on 3 July 2016 at 9:52pm Reply

    Simple story-telling, superlative singing and playing. What more could you ask for in a piece like this? Joyce Di Donato has both the passion and the tenderness needed for Charlotte, and she acts with subtlety. Grigolo's heart-on-sleeve over-acting is equally well suited to Werther, and he finds an unexpected inwardness where it is required at the end. His rendering of Massenet's setting of the French librettists' version of Goethe's translation of an English "translation" of a fictitious Gaelic original was emotional power in the raw. He would have brought the house down had Pappano allowed it. The other parts were all done well, although I'm not sure that Albert has to be so brusque at the end of act 3.

    The relative lack of comments above about the production is surely a compliment. It does its job effectively and self-effacingly, telling the story and establishing a mood for each scene, with no pretension to doing more. Werther is not Tristan. His love-suicide needs no fancy philosophical explanations.

  19. Stephen Ratcliffe responded on 3 July 2016 at 10:06pm Reply

    Loved Werther at today's matinee. Only spoilt by a low level hum ( some kind of feedback?) which was quite pronounced in the amphitheatre. I noticed it at Oedipe too. Heard some other people complaining about it too so it was not just my ears.

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 6 July 2016 at 5:08pm

      Hi Stephen,

      Apologies, our Front of House team are aware and looking into this.

      Best wishes,


  20. francois responded on 5 July 2016 at 3:38pm Reply

    Probably the best performance I have attended at the ROH this season! This revival of Werther is absolutely perfect! There is passion, drama...
    Vibrant and moving conducting from Tony Pappano, fantastic orchestra in a very good shape. And the production remains very good.
    Vittorio Grigolo is now the only Werther able to substitute to the amazingly unforgettable performance from J.Kaufmann in Paris. Grigolo's Werther is totally different but very coherent and convincing though! Excellent singing, fabulous acting, he will probably be the Werther of the next ten years. Thank you to the ROH for having given to us the opportunity to see it!
    Joyce di Donato was fantastic too, so moving in the last two acts!
    Globally a wonderful evening, one that I will never forget!

  21. Marji responded on 6 July 2016 at 9:27pm Reply

    I saw the cinema broadcast and went back for the encore showing. The music and singing was terrific, but Joyce DiDonato's acting was the most moving ever seen - Oscar winners could not hold a candle to this performance.
    I hope it will be released on DVD.

  22. gianluca corsini responded on 7 July 2016 at 9:54am Reply

    Vittorio and Joice absolutely stunning!
    What an amazing evening. Sir Antonio Pappano is definitely the best opera conductor after our beloved Claudio Abbado. Living and working sometimes in Rome, i am very lucky to hear his music in Accademia di Santa Cecilia.
    Thank you ROH!!!

  23. Ash Armstrong responded on 7 July 2016 at 12:54pm Reply

    I have to admit to being disappointed when I saw the cinema screening of Werther last week, by the angled staging and low lighting, but this may have been due to the cameras.
    Now, having attended the July 6 performance at ROH, I have to say both of those elements worked beautifully in the theatre, and the final act was rending!
    Didonato and Grigolo were wonderfully well-matched, achingly believable, and the tragic tension set in motion in Act One was palpable. Marvellous playing from the pit, led by the inimitable Pappano, all in all made for a most memorable and satisfying evening.

  24. Susan responded on 7 July 2016 at 9:25pm Reply

    Oh the relief!! Wonderful singing, wonderful acting, and the wondeful Pappano! proper sets, proper costumes, proper lighting . . . (Life is grey enough without the ROH's series of grey productions!) I loved it.

  25. John M. responded on 10 July 2016 at 10:24am Reply

    I saw last Wednesday's performance. What a relief after the dismal, disappointing Il trovatore on the previous evening! The production did its job; it didn't try to tell us what the opera is "really" about, but rather just set the scene and let the music and the singing and the interactions tell the story. It was impossible not to be drawn in and moved by what we saw and heard. There were too many lovely things to list, but I was particularly moved by the sadness and despair in the scene of Werther's return in Act 3. The interactions of the two principals were almost too painful to watch - Grigolo's resigned despair very touching. The singing was beyond excellent - for me this was the best pairing in the three times I have seen this production - supported beautifully by Pappano and the orchestra. A world class evening at the opera! If only I could say that about that Il trovatore ....

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