Wonderful singing and orchestral playing and elegant looking production but very perplexing staging
Massenet's best opera is between Manon and Werther in my opinion, being very moving with fine music. This production from the Vienna State Opera is solid, but it is not perfect.
The problems I had with the production though were to do with the stage direction, which was too often hugely distracting, even being at odds with the libretto. The presence of the tree and Albert in Act 4 was a major annoyance and didn't make sense at all, and Charlotte with Werther's body at the end was just weird, but even more of a problem was how little the characters were developed. They are and act tormented but if you're unfamiliar with Werther you won't entirely get why they are so. The biggest problem was with Charlotte, who is made more selfish and aloof than she is sympathetic and maternal. It really undermined the Act 3 and 4 confrontational scenes between Werther and Charlotte.
However, apart from Sophie's ugly costume it is a very elegant-looking production, especially in the sets and Charlotte's chic-looking clothes. The production is well-shot with excellent picture and sound quality. The orchestral playing has lots of power and pathos, while Phillippe Jourdan's conducting is very enigmatic. Marcelo Alvarez is an ardent, passionate and eventually delusional Werther, with ringing and assured singing, which makes up for his French diction not being very good. Elina Garanca has a gorgeous dark, rich mezzo soprano voice, and while the stage direction does work against her her Charlotte is still commanding. Adrian Erod plays sympathetic turned bitter very well and sings sonorously, while Ileana Tonca has an appealing bright tone as Sophie.
All in all, elegant and superbly performed but the stage direction just didn't do much for me. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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