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This opera is part of a three-opera set [Verdi's Nabucco, Simon Boccanegra, and Massenet's Werther] and can be easily and economically purchased through amazon. In Europe this specific opera is also offered as a single package; perhaps this will soon be done in North America, too.
This Werther production is set in the 1950s. Although the music is the same as in other performances [as the set designer Peter Pabst stated] this modernized stage set might not be to everyone's liking. A tall tree with a massive trunk dominates the stage. The tree's foliage changes from July to December, the period of the opera's action. Having people living under the tree and in the second floor of the "tree house" might not be to everyone's taste.
Some scenes are worth criticising. The bailiff has always had six young children. In this performance a whole school class of children shows up in bathing outfits. During the death scene we are witnessing a long sexually-laden goodbye which is overacted. Of course, we can't change anything of this 2005 performance.
The libretto of Werther is based on Goethe's novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers . The novel reflects the unhappy love story of the lawyer Jerusalem who had fallen in love with the wife of a diplomat. To escape the hopeless situation the lawyer borrowed the pistol from a friend of Goethe and shot himself. The note the lawyer wrote to this friend is quoted verbatim in the opera, probably the only textual connection between the novel and the opera.
The librettists invented Charlotte's sister Sophie and the presence of Charlotte at Werther's death.
The singing and acting of Elina Garanca are superb in this performance. Unquestionably, she lights up the stage with her personality.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Good singing, decent productionFeb. 22 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
I agree with the reviewer who calls this a 'questionable' production. The characters were occasionally pushed beyond their character type. For instance, Werther is extremely irritated with Sophie and her happy singing in Act 2, whereas Werther would never be so unkind. And at the beginning of the opera, Sophie and Charlotte seem to be quite annoyed with one another, whereas Charlotte is supposed to be the loving nurturer of all the younger ones in the family. She comes off as neurotic and self-centered, and I'm pretty sure that is not how Massenet intended Charlotte to be protrayed. Also, the fact that Albert seems to be present all during Act 4 is downright weird.
I thought both Alvarez and Garanca followed the direction carefully and for the most part, it did work, even if the director's ideas rubbed a bit against the music. The chemistry between the two of them seemed real and it was easy to suffer along with Werther. His singing was lovely and hers was too. Garanca has a rich, low mezzo. The Sophie sang very well also. The Bailiff and the Albert were acceptable.
There was a strange cut in Act 1: the bit where Sophie encourages her father to keep his promise and go out with Johann and Schmidt - an odd little cut.
One more odd thing - in the last act, Werther and Charlotte don't just kiss - they are actually rolling around in the bed together. That seems a bit weird since the man has a gushing hole in his head.
Since the singing is good, and it's the only commercial live production of the opera we can get so far, complete with nice subtitles, I recommend it buying it, as it is certainly one of the most lovely operas ever written.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Provocative and moving "Werther"Dec 30 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Where "Werther" is concerned, there's not much competition in DVD format--only the heavily cut and lip-synched 1985 Petr Weigl film, which is still worth checking out for Brigitte Fassbaender's performance but not for much else. All the more reason to be grateful, then, that this 2005 production does not break the spell that seems to have guaranteed good fortune to virtually all the recorded versions of Massenet's most radical and adventuresome opera in both LP and CD formats (my personal favorites: von Stade and Carreras under Colin Davis, and Kasarova and Vargas under Jurowski). The musical values in this DVD set are quite high, with sensitive direction from the podium (Philippe Jordan) and a seamlessly stellar cast--there's not a weak link in the ensemble. Andrei Serban's staging and direction are perhaps not for all markets--this production moves the drama from Goethe's late eighteenth-century setting to the 1950's--but, for the life of me, if there were ever an opera that cried out for and could actually thrive on imaginative updating, it is surely "Werther." Vincent Patterson's recent updating of Massenet's signature opera, "Manon," which views the heroine's career through the lens of various Hollywood stars (Audrey Hebburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman), has received considerable acclaim (see the amazon.com reviews of the DVD); but Serban's vision engages the core elements of the drama in "Werther" far better than Patterson's treatment of "Manon." By comparison, Patterson's "Manon" seems merely clever. Serban's "Werther" is disturbing and profoundly moving, because it meticulously drives home the resemblance between the turmoil registered in the original setting and the soul-killing social and domestic proprieties of '50s-era middle-class culture. While it may be a cliche to think of the 1950s in those terms, this production makes them painfully fresh and real and gives edgy resonance to Massenet's psychologically asute music. The center of gravity does shift, however, but I think this is for the better. In Serban's production, the central character is clearly Charlotte, and the pivot of the drama turns on her (and, in Serban's staging, also Sophie's) unwillingness to acknowledge or act on the true nature of her desire until far too late. As a result, both Werther and Sophie also emerge as more complicated and far less sentimental figures than traditional stagings would allow: here Werther's instability and delusional fugues register powerfully, as does Sophie's painful and frustrated passage into adulthood. In a word, Serban's production does for "Werther" what Douglas Sirk did for filmic melodrama in the 1950s (think: "All That Heaven Allows," not to mention Todd Haynes' 2002 remake, "Far from Heaven"). Marcelo Alvarez captures the danger in Werther with powerful intensity; Elina Garanca's Charlotte is a major incarnation, especially riveting in the harrowing final act. If you love "Werther," you must see this.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Great production, singing, acting!!!Oct. 16 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Like the previous reviewer, I had never seen any other production of Werther to spoil my enjoyment of this one. I thought it was wonderful! The music was powerful. The parts of Werther and Charlotte were sung beautifully and passionately by both Marcelo Alvarez and Elina Garanca. The acting was perfect. All the singers were good.
I was sort of surprised to see the 50s setting and costumes, but this is a timeless story, so...what does it matter? The staging with the gigantic tree was quite cleverly done, I thought. The changing colors of the leaves showed the passage of time. It was odd to have Charlotte's living space appear beneath the tree in Act III, but this is opera. By Act IV, the tree looked like a monstrous spider, and there lay Werther, bullet hole to the chest, dripping with blood. It took the entire act for him to die! With Albert lurking in the background and Charlotte mashing herself into Werther's bloody body...weird? Yes. Opera? Yes. I loved it!
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Great singing, poor stagingFeb. 11 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Why do directors have to detract from operas by forcing the viewer to watch their ego (which they call creativity)? The singing, acting, and orchestra are very good. So is the opera (one of Massenet.s most popular). But the scenery and the shift of time to the 1950s make it seem silly. As for the scenery, the giant tree that is the theme in all four acts is fine for act 1 (the garden) and act II (the town square, but is rather silly as the wall of the sitting room in act III and is totally ridiculous in Act IV where Werther's death bed in his bedroom is under this tree. Changing the time to the 1950s makes the plot unbeleavable. Girls of the 1950s simply didn't refused the man they loved to marry the man their late mother had wanted them to marry.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
yes it is a disturbing.March 7 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
And that's what director wanted to achieve I believe. I have never seen any other production of this opera, so I do not suffer any problems to take it along with the music. Singing on the leading parts is great and the rest are fairely good as well. It is disturbing, but I guess that's how it was supposed to be at the time it was written by Goette. That time was way more sencible and inocent, so the turns of director are justified.
As for the bed scene, the wound in this production is not to the head, but
a confused one to the stomach so there's no contradiction.
I had a great time watching this and I will do it again and again.
Sometimes the opera reviews are reminding me of Islamic fundamentalit's
writings. Not to mention, I am a former opera singer with 10 years of carrer. Buy it if you enjoy the fact that the opera is not something left in the past with the THREE TENORS, there's plenty of great singers in this world and Alvarez is definetly one of the best.