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Georges Thill as Werther
23 Mar 2008

MASSENET: Werther

Werther: Drame lyrique en 4 actes et 5 tableaux

Music composed by Jules Massenet. Libretto by Edouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann based on Die Leiden des jungen Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Streaming Audio

Jules Massenet: Werther

Georges Thilll, Ninon Vallin, Germaine Feraldy, Marcel Roque, Armand Narçon, Louis Guenot, Henri Niel, Choeurs d'enfants de la Cantoria, Orchestre du Théâtre National de l'Opéra-Comique, Elie Cohen (cond.). Recorded March 1931.

 

First performance: 16 February 1892 at the Hofoper, Vienna.

Principal characters

Werther, 23-years old Tenor
Albert, 25-years old Baritone
Le Bailli, 50-years old Baritone or bass
Schmidt, friend of Bailli Tenor
Johann, friend of Bailli Baritone or bass
Brühlmann, young man Tenor
Charlotte, daugher of Bailli, 20-years old Mezzo-soprano
Sophie, her sister, 15-years old Soprano
Kätchen, young girl Soprano
Six children: Fritz, Max, Hans, Karl, Gretel, Clara Soprani or children's voices

Synopsis

Act I

On the outskirts of Frankfurt, July 178_.

On the terrace of the house of the bailiff, children are practicing Christmas carols. Sophie, the bailiff's fifteen-year-old daughter, looks on while her older sister, Charlotte, prepares for a party. The guests arrive. Among them is the young dreamer Werther ("Je of it sais him je veille"), whom the bailiff introduces to Charlotte. While all are at the dance, Sophie is at home alone when Albert, who is engaged to Charlotte, returns from a long trip. He is greatly disturbed that Charlotte has gone to a dance with another. But Sophie reassures him — his beloved has always thought of him ("Elle me aime"). The two depart, whereupon Werther and Charlotte reenter. Werther declares to her his love, but Charlotte tells him of her promise to her dying mother to marry Albert. Werther, although desperate, doesn't oppose ("The faut nous séparer").

Act II

The following September in the plaza of Wetzlar.

Albert and Charlotte have been married for three months and their friends toast their union. The unhappy Werther attends. Sophie arrives, who is in love with Werther, asks him to dance; but the invitation is rejected. Werther wants to talk to Charlotte. He approaches her to declare his love once more. But she responds by recommending that he leave for a few months and return on Christmas. Werther begins to think that only death can free him from his unhappiness. He again refuses Sophie's invitation to the dance.

Act III

Christmas Eve in the living room of Albert's house.

Charlotte is uneasy as she rereads a letter of Werther. Sophie asks her if she were sad because of the absence of Werther ("Je vous écris"). Charlotte begins to weep. Werther arrives. While he is reading her some verses of Ossian, he kisses her. They embrace, but Charlotte then runs away confining herself in a room ("Pourquoi me réveiller"). Werther leaves the house. He now knows that there is no happiness for him. Shortly thereafter he sends a note to Albert to ask him to loan him his pistols to take with him on a trip. Charlotte realizes the truth and hurries to Werther's home.

Act IV

It is Christmas night.

Werther lies dying in his study. Upon hearing the voice of Charlotte, he is revived for an instant. He asks for forgiveness and for a proper burial ("Là-bas, au fond du cimitière"). He dies in Charlotte's arms as she confesses the truth — she has always loved him. She expresses her regret at having sacrificed her own true feelings to an oath. Children are heard from afar singing Christmas carols.

Click here for the complete libretto.

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