Werther – Jules Massenet – Israeli Opera
Jules Massenet took a novel from Goethe to compose a lyrical 4 act opera from a French libretto by Eduard Blau. It was meant to have its premiere at the Paris Opera Comique in 1887, but due to a fire at the Opera House this did not happen and it did not take place until 1892 in a German language translation in Vienna. The French language premiere followed that year in Geneva.
Some of the great tenors over the years have taken on the role of Werther such as Gedda, Kraus, Domingo, Carreras, Alagna, Kaufmann and Florez.
In this performance the Italian tenor, Alessandro Liberatore, sang Werther. His voice moulded into the role during the performance, starting slowly, but his ardent Italianate sound identified clearly with Werther and his second and third act duets with the Charlotte of Na’ama Goldman were very touching.
Goldman sang Carmen two years ago at Grange Festival and her voice has really blossomed. She is a fine singer and actress, particularly suited to the role of Charlotte.
Her sister, Sophie, was sung by the Israeli Arab singer, Nour Darwish, whose tender and alluring voice fitted perfectly into the role. This was her premiere performance on the stage of the Israeli Opera and a touching one too.
The French Conductor, Alan Guingal, was outstanding in his control of the music throughout the evening. He was always unobtrusive and provided good pace, allowing the singers to flourish. He is a French opera specialist and it showed.
Paul Emile Fourny was the Director. He gave us a clever alluring production being picture frame within picture frames. The action tended to freeze at certain points in order to highlight a particular aria and it was only in the final scene with the frames broken on stage and Werther dying in between that the action faulted somewhat as Charlotte tried at last to covet her lover.
However, overall the action was taut and immediate, with a really powerful third act love scene. The beautiful lines of the music shone through throughout the extremely musical evening.