Based on the great classic novel by Goethe that took Europe by storm, Werther is an entirely domestic story of an apparently idyllic middle class family, torn apart by uncontrollable passion. The opera is dominated by the handsome, over-sensitive young artist, and the lovely Charlotte, who is engaged to be married to his friend Albert.
Iain Farrington has done an outstanding job in retaining the spirit of the original in his skillful chamber rescoring… A rewarding evening.
The staging looks intelligent: Oliver Platt and his designer Oliver Townsend have moved the setting to Midwest America in the Fifties, establishing an atmosphere of Norman Rockwell cosiness in which Charlotte presents as the perfect cookie-baking wife for a GI husband Albert (Simon Wallfisch). Michael Druiett is her amiable Pop and Lauren Zolezzi her sweet kid sister Sophie – both of them excellent.
Iain Farrington’s reduction for piano, violin, cello and clarinet is very attractive, and under his own direction it’s immaculately played.
Terrific opening night from all of the Werther team. Plenty more to come! @ETOpera
Act I - July
At home, a retired magistrate rehearses his youngest children in a Christmas carol. Charlotte, his eldest daughter, is getting ready for a dance which is to be held that evening, helped by her sister, Sophie. The magistrate's old friend, Johann Schmidt, arrives and is bemused by the children's summertime carolling. He enquires when Charlotte's fiancé, Albert, will return, and then leaves for a drink.
A young poet, Werther, is to accompany Charlotte to the dance. As he approaches the house he is enthralled by the natural beauty that surrounds him. He is welcomed by the magistrate and is charmed by the scene of domestic happiness, with Charlotte at its centre. They leave for the dance.
Albert returns unannounced, and finds Sophie alone. He is delighted to hear that Charlotte has not forgotten her promise to marry him, a vow she made to her mother on her deathbed. He leaves uplifted.
Later in the evening Werther and Charlotte return from the dance. As they talk, the magistrate announces Albert's return, reminding Charlotte of her promise. Realising she is betrothed to another man, Werther insists she must stay faithful.
Act II - 3 months later
The magistrate and Schmidt enjoy a restful Sunday morning as they prepare to go to the pastor's golden wedding celebration. Albert and Charlotte, now married, follow them to the church.
Werther arrives, distraught that Charlotte has married another man, and is not helped by Albert's attempts to console him. Sophie tries to drag them both to the celebrations.
Werther realises he cannot stay. Returning from the celebrations, Charlotte implores him to leave, and not to return until Christmas.
Act III - Christmas Eve
Charlotte is reading Werther's letters. Sophie tries to lift her sister's spirits but Charlotte is left with a feeling of dread, and prays for help.
On the appointed day, Werther returns. As he tries to convince Charlotte to confess her love for him, she is overcome with guilt and leaves him. Driven to distraction, Werther threatens to kill himself.
Albert returns, and calls for Charlotte. He discovers a note left by Werther, asking to borrow his pistols. Albert demands Charlotte takes them to Werther, but she finds the gun case empty. Understanding that Werther has taken the pistols, Charlotte goes to him.
Charlotte finds Werther bleeding, with Albert's pistol at his side. She would go for help, but he begs her to stay with him. She confesses her love for him. As he dies, they hear sounds of the children singing their carol.