Lyric Opera continues their winning formula of presenting operatic masterpieces ‘up close and personal’ this October at Chapel off Chapel with Massenet’s Werther. Based on the Goethe novel that sparked the Romantic movement, Werther is grand opera, grand emotions and grand music presented on an accessible, intimate and engaging scale.
Werther falls passionately and obsessively in love with the already betrothed Charlotte,
but will she recognise her own feelings before it’s too late?
Margaret Plummer makes her Lyric debut as Charlotte opposite Shanul Sharma as Werther as the year's most exciting operatic partnership! supported by some of Melbourne’s finest singers including Daniela Leska, Bruce Raggatt and James Payne. Director Suzanne Chaundy brings a wealth of experience to this new production designed by Christina Logan-Bell. Conducted by Artistic Director Pat Miller, Lyric’s Werther will be a thrilling musical, theatrical and emotional experience that will be the must see event of Melbourne’s year!
Charlotte: Margaret Plummer
Werther: Shanul Sharma
Sophie: Daniela Leska
Albert: Bruce Raggatt
Balliol: James Payne
Schmidt: Daniel SinfIeld
Johan: Bernard Leon
Director: Suzanne Chaundy
Conductor: Pat Miller
Set and Costume Designer: Christina Logan Bell
Lighting Designer: Lucy Birkinshaw
Videographer: Zoe Scoglio
Media design: CAST
Producer: Hilary Pilcher
Stage Manager: Hayley Fox
Director's Assistant: Miki Brotzler
Conductor's Assistant: Mateusz Gwizdalla
Production Assistant: Robert Johnson
Developing Artists and Understudies:
supported by Caine Real Estate
Flute and Piccolo: Kieran Phatak Oboe and Cor Anglais: Jasper Ly Clarinet and Saxophone: Luke Carbon
Bassoon: Matthew Kneale French Horn: Rachel Shaw Harp & Percussion: Jacinta Dennett Harmonium: Sarah Cameron
Violin 1: Holly Piccoli & Hayato Simpson Violin 2: Ben Spiers & Phillip Healey
Viola: Finn Cooney & Elena Phatak Cello: Nils Hobiger & Lauren Jennings Double Bass: Jono Coco
DATES AND TIMES
Saturday October 18, 7:30pm
Monday October 20, 7:30pm
Wednesday October 22, 7:30pm
Friday October 24, 7:30pm
Sunday October 26, 3:00pm
All performances at Chapel off Chapel
12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Under 35 $35.00
Early Bird: tbc
TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE
Performance sung in English, lasting two and a half hours, including one 20 minute interval.
STUDENT NIGHT - INTRODUCTION TO OPERA
Looking for the perfect introduction to opera?
Discount tickets for eligable secondary and tertiary Students will be available for the Monday 20 October show.
There will be a pre-performance talk and introduction at 6:45pm,
and followed by a Q&A session with cast and creatives afterwards.
Bookings must be made in advance.
For more information contact:
ABOUT THE OPERA
GEOTHE'S 'THE SORROWS OF YOUNG WERTHER'
The Sorrows of Young Werther (German: Die Leiden des jungen Werther) is an epistolary and loosely autobiographical novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, first published in 1774; a revised edition of the novel was published in 1787. Wertherwas an important novel of the Sturm und Drang period in German literature, and influenced the later Romantic literary movement.
Finished in six weeks of intensive writing during January–March 1774, its publication instantly made the 24-year-old Goethe one of the first international literary celebrities. Of all his works, this book was the most known to the general public. Towards the end of Goethe's life, a personal visit to Weimar became crucial to any young man's tour of Europe.
Massenet started composing Werther in 1885, completing it in 1887 and submitting it to the director of the Paris Opéra-ComiqueLeon Carvalho that year who declined to accept it on the grounds that it was too serious a scenario. With the disruption of the fire at the Opéra-Comique and Massenet's work on other operatic projects (especially Esclarmonde), it was put to one side, until the Vienna Opera, pleased with the success of Manon, asked the composer for a new work. Werther received its premiere on 16 February 1892 in a German version translated by Max Kalbeck at the Imperial Theatre Hofoper in Vienna.
The French-language premiere followed in Geneva on 27 December 1892. The first performance in France was given by the Opéra-Comique at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Place du Châtelet in Paris on 16 January 1893, with Marie Delna as Charlotte and Guillaume Ibos in the title role, conducted by Jules Danbé, but was not immediately successful.
Werther entered the repertoire at the Opéra-Comique in 1903 in a production supervised by Albert Carré, and over the next half-century the opera was performed over 1,100 times there, Léon Beyle becoming a distinguished interpreter of Werther. The United States premiere with the Metropolitan Opera took place in Chicago on 29 March 1894 and then in the company's main house in New York City three weeks later. The UK premiere was a one-off performance at Covent Garden, London, on 11 June 1894 with Emma Eames as Charlotte, Sigrid Arnoldson as Sophie, and Jean de Reszke in the title role.
Werther is still regularly performed around the world and has been recorded many times. Although written for a tenor, Massenet adjusted the role of Werther for a baritone, when Mattia Battistini sang it in Saint Petersburg in 1902. It is very occasionally performed in this version.
ACT I. THE HOUSE OF THE BALLIF
Wetzlar, near Frankfurt, 1780s. Though it is July, the widowed Bailiff teaches his younger children a Christmas carol in the garden of their house. Their progress is watched with amusement by two neighbors, Schmidt and Johann. They ask for Charlotte, the eldest daughter, who is engaged to Albert. In his absence, the Bailiff tells them, she will be escorted to the local ball that night by a young visiting poet, Werther, whom they find uncongenial. As the friends go off to supper and the Bailiff goes into the house, Werther arrives. He rhapsodizes on the beauty of the evening and watches unseen as Charlotte cuts bread and butter for the children's supper. When the party has left for the ball and the Bailiff has gone to join his friends at the tavern, Albert returns unexpectedly. Disappointed at not finding Charlotte, he promises her sister Sophie he will return in the morning. As the moon rises, Werther and Charlotte return. He has fallen in love with her, but his declaration is cut short when the Bailiff passes by, observing that Albert has returned. Despite his despair, Werther urges Charlotte not to break her promise to marry Albert.
ACT II. THE LINDEN TREES
Three months later, Charlotte and Albert, now married, walk contentedly across the town square on their way to church, followed by Werther. Albert tries to comfort the youth, and Sophie also attempts to cheer him up, but when Charlotte comes out of the church, he speaks of their first meeting; disturbed, she tells him he must leave Wetzlar until Christmas. Werther contemplates suicide, and when Sophie interrupts him, he rushes away. As Charlotte consoles the tearful girl, Albert realizes that Werther must be in love with his wife.
ACT III. CHARLOTTE AND WERTHER
Alone at home on Christmas Eve, Charlotte rereads the dejected letters written to her by Werther. While she prays for strength, he suddenly appears. Charlotte tries to remain calm and asks him to read to her from his translation of Ossian. Werther chooses a passage where the poet foresees his own death, and when Charlotte begs him to stop, he realizes she returns his love. But she runs from his embrace with a final farewell, and Werther leaves, resolved to die. Albert enters, surprised to find Charlotte distraught, and when a message arrives from Werther asking to borrow Albert's pistols, her reaction convinces him of her love for Werther. He makes her give the pistols to the servant herself, but when Albert has gone she hurries off, praying she may reach Werther in time.
ACT IV. THE DEATH OF WERTHER
Charlotte arrives at Werther's quarters to find him mortally wounded. She declares her love, and he begs forgiveness. As he dies, the voices of the children outside are heard singing their Christmas carol.
-- courtesy of Opera News
WERTHER PROGRAM NOTES
Note from the Chairman
We have been sending out letters asking for support for Lyric. I want to sincerely thank all of those who have supported us. This has been our first attempt at getting a core of contributors to our company. As many of you will be aware, with the competing number of opera companies and arts organisations it is very difficult to achieve success however we are pleased with the result of our first venture into this area which we will need to sustain if we are to satisfactorily support our company in the future. I want to thank in particular the Stonnington Council, Hans & Petra Henkell, Betty Amsden, and Jacob Caine for their generous support of Werther.
I am sure you will all be excited with the wonderful cast we have assembled for this production, with both experienced and new singers making their debut, who fit in our stated vision to support both young and midterm artists to enable them to further their careers.
CR Claude Ullin, J.P.
Chairman, Lyric Opera of Melbourne
DIRCECTOR'S PROGRAM NOTE
As a director of theatre as well as opera I love ‘Werther’. I love its narrative strength, I love that text and story are so important to Massenet and I love the intimacy of this drama. I also love the structure, the diminishing world of Charlotte and Werther, spiralling in until only the two of them remain. In the close confines of Chapel Off Chapel we are able to explore this tale of doomed love and obsession under a microscope. My particular passion in operatic direction is to find the detail and nuance of every acted moment, just as the composer and librettist have formed every moment interpreted by the conductor and orchestra. I cannot bear the generalised wash of acting that is so often deemed acceptable on the operatic stage.
I have never directed an opera in such a small space. I have directed theatre on this scale, but directing opera as poor theatre and on an intimate scale is new to me. This provides the perfect platform for me to test this detailed approach.
Poor theatre and grand opera, can the two mix? Well I guess you’ll be the judge. We do not have the luxury of a house curtain or stagehands to transform our space. I have worked with the brilliant Christina Logan-Bell to create a dynamic space that can work fluidly throughout the whole opera despite the requirement of four quite different scenic locations. We have embraced the theatrical potential offered by all of the characters and through our update have breathed fresh life into this Romantic work. Love and loss are timeless.
We are deeply indebted to the young tenor Shanul Sharma, for stepping in to take up the challenge of this incredibly demanding role at short notice. I thank the entire team of enormously talented artists who have committed themselves passionately to this unique experience of ‘Werther’. This is a celebration of the depth of talent that exists in our opera community and I thank Lyric Opera not only for the opportunity I have been given, but also for programming work that could otherwise be unexplored.
Suzanne Chaundy (October 2014).
CONDUCTOR'S PROGRAM NOTE
Bringing the page to life.
When asked to put together programs for Lyric, Werther was virtually the top of the list. It is a grand opera, with grand drama, grand music and grand emotions, but on a chamber scale, with a small cast and intimate drama. Werther allows Lyric to achieve exactly what we set out:
to create an exceptional musical and dramatic experience up close and personal.
The brilliant starting point is Goethe’s epoch-making novella of 1789 ‘The Sorrows of young Werther’. The sensationally popular book is primarily written as a series of letters and was adapted countless times over the next century before Massenet’s publisher Heugel asked Milliet & Hartmann to adapt it into an opera libretto. The pair faced many dramatic challenges; the novel is in German, there is virtually no dialogue in the novella, there is very little material for characters other than Werther and the novel ends with Werther dying alone, leaving little scope for the sort of finales demanded by the operatic stage. The pair crafted an exceptional, and very beautiful libretto and created a tightly wrought drama that gave dimension to Goethe’s drama and provided all the logistical and musical opportunities required in opera.
Perhaps responding to Goethe’s Germanic nature, Massenet wrote the score of Werther with many Wagnerian elements, following that most German of composers. This included lacing the score with a series of leitmotivs, whereby a melody representing a character or idea that returns and develops through the music. Also Wagnerian is the use the orchestra as a dramatic device in its own right. The orchestra supports, comments and drives the drama, often telling the audience what the characters on stage cannot. He also introduced a new instrument to the orchestra, with the then brand new Saxophone used prominently to evoke heartache. Massenet was an ultimate craftsman, using the music as a clear dramatic device. His music becomes more and more rich as the drama develops; from charming square melodies and clear harmonies to opulent harmonies and expansive melodies by the end. Correspondingly, the drama telescopes down as the opera continues from the bustle of the opening act to the final, lonely act.
This most Germanic of French operas was premiered in Vienna before gradually establishing itself in the repertory. Lyric’s production is part of a long-overdue global revival of Massenet’s works, in particular of Werther. There are still challenges however in bringing a 19th Century French Opera, based on an 18th Century German Novella to the 21st century Australian Stage. We live in an age of immediacy and technology and these two ideas have helped us shape this production.
Despite the beauty of the original libretto, singing in French with surtitles present an impediment to the contemporary audience’s ability to engage with the drama. The team collaborated on this English translation which allows the cast to ‘put words in the mouths’ of their characters but allows our production to speak immediately to the audience.
The presence of technology has been used as a subtle tool to help frame this story for a contemporary. This transfers the action to the contemporary age and to help make the characters and their journey immediately recognisable and to our audience.
In Lyric’s production of Werther we want to present Massenet’s exceptional crafted opera to a contemporary audience with all the clarity, directness and emotional impact of Goethe’s Novella.