Werther is one my favorite operas. That said, there are several performances to choose from now. For a long time. it was neglected on stage and underrepresented in the LP/CD catalog. This version was the last in a line of recordings in the late 1970's. Conductor Colin Davis had an exclusive recording contract with Phillips recording company in the Netherlands. He spent his time in the 1970's recording wonderful but lesser known operas. His selection of cast for the three main roles is interesting.
Frederica von Stade, one my all-time favorite mezzo-sopranos, sings the role of Charlotte. An exponent of French art songs, she brings that range of experience to her interpretation of the role. Her voice in lyrical, but rich in color, and her parsing is stylistic without being. Her smooth sound brings a strong but vulnerability to the role. In her letter scene in act III, she bring her resources to bear and creates a controlled passion. She nearly loses that control in her following scene with Werther.She is the main reason for this recording.
Jose Carreras is young here. this is ten years before his bout with leukemia and before he pushed his voice beyond its natural beauty. He still has the lyrical beauty that propelled him the top of the opera world before he was 30. His character, however is not quite Wether. We also hear the beginning of the over-singing that would mar g=his later career. He floats some phrases well and in his encounter with Albert, he goes back to his sweet open sound, nearly making "French" phrasing and caressing tones. He counters this with and un-stylistic "Pourquoi me revellier." He nails the top B-flats, but pushes it like a spinto tenor and he blows past his natural beauty.
Thomas Allen is a fine Albert, a relatively thankless role. Allen handles it with artistry and skill. His pleasant voice brings a much needed focus on Albert as a catalyst in the drama.
Davis reading of the score is very good, but uninspired. Thsi is not a bad recording, but for my money, not my favorite.