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Jules Massenet


The Sorrows of Young Werther

The Sorrows of Young Werther (German: Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) is a loosely autobiographical epistolary novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, first published in 1774. A revised edition followed in 1787.


The Sorrows of Young Werther, novel by J.W. von Goethe, published in German as Die Leiden des jungen Werthers in 1774. It was the first novel of the Sturm und Drang movement.

The novel is the story of a sensitive, artistic young man who demonstrates the fatal effects of a predilection for absolutes—whether those of love, art, society, or thought. Unable to reconcile his inner, poetic fantasies and ideas with the demands of the everyday world, Werther goes to the country in an attempt to restore his well-being. There he falls in love with Charlotte (Lotte), the uncomplicated fiancée of a friend. Werther leaves but later returns, feeling depressed and hopeless no matter where he lives. Torn by unrequited passion and his perception of the emptiness of life, he commits suicide.

An exceptionally popular book, The Sorrows of Young Werther gave expression to what Scottish historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle called “the nameless unrest and longing discontent which was then agitating every bosom.” The mind that conceived its symmetry, wove its intricate linguistic patterns, and handled the subtle differentiation of hero and narrator was moved by a formal as well as a personal passion. The translated title (which uses “Sorrows” instead of “Sufferings”) obscures the allusion to the Passion of Christ and individualizes what Goethe himself thought of as a “general confession,” in a tradition going back to St. Augustine.

Goethe in the Roman Campagna (1786) by Tischbein

Jules Massenet

Massenet - Werther

Massenet - WERTHER
Kraus, Davison, Cava,
Saccomani Gª Asensio Zarzuela
Mayo 1977

Werther is an opera (drame lyrique) in four acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann (who used the pseudonym Henri Grémont). It is loosely based on the German epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which was based both on fact and on Goethe's own early life. Earlier examples of operas using the story were made by Kreutzer (1792) and Pucitta (1802).

Massenet started composing Werther in 1885, completing it in 1887. He submitted it to Leon Carvalho, the director of the Paris Opéra-Comique, that year, but Carvalho declined to accept it on the grounds that the scenario was too serious. 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,[1] 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 the role of Werther was written for a tenor, Massenet adjusted it for a baritone, when Mattia Battistini sang it in Saint Petersburg in 1902. It is very occasionally performed in this version, in which the changes affect only the vocal line for the title character. There are no other changes to the words, to the lines for other characters, or to the orchestration.

Massenet - Werther

José Carreras; Frederica Von Stade; Colin Davis; Covent Garden-Operaens Orkester
Disc: 1
  1. Prelude . Vorspiel. Prelude - Massenet, Jules
  2. Act One . Erster Akt.Premier Acte: Assez! Assez! - Noel! Jesus vient de naitre/Bravo pour les enfant - Robert Lloyd/Children from the Royal Opr House Production/Malcolm King/paul Crook/Isobel Buchanan
  3. Act One . Erster Akt.Premier Acte: Je ne sais si je veille - Jose Carreras
  4. Act One . Erster Akt.Premier Acte: Jesus vient de naitre!/Charlotte! Charotte!/Ah! monsieur Werther! - Children from the Royal Opr House production/Jose Carreras/Frederica Von Stade/Isobel Buchanan
  5. Act One . Erster Akt.Premier Acte:O spectacle ideal d' amour et d' innocence/Monsieur Werther! - Robert Lloyd/Frederica von stade/Isobel Buchanan/Jose Carreras
  6. Act One . Erster Akt.Premier Acte: Sophie! - Thomas Allen/Isobel Buchanan
  7. Act One . Erster Akt.Premier Acte: Elle m' aime....elle pense a moi - Thomas Allen
  8. Act One . Erster Akt.Premier Acte: Il faut nous separer - Ah! Pourvu que je voie ces yeux - Frederica von Stade/Jose Carreras
  9. Act One . Erster Akt.Premier Acte: Mais vous ne savez rien de moi - Jose Carreras/Frederica von Stade
  10. Act One . Erster Akt.Premier Acte: Reve! Exase! Bonheur!/Charlotte! Charlotte! Albert est.... - Jose Carreras/Frederica von Stade/Robert Lloyd
  11. Act Two. Zweiter Akt. Deuxieme Acte: Prelude.Vorspiel.Prelude - Vivat Bacchus! Semper vivat! - Malcolm King/Paul Crook
  12. Act Two. Zweiter Akt. Deuxieme Acte: Trois mois! Voici trois mois que nous sommes unis! - Thomas Allen/Frederica von Stade
  13. Act Two. Zweiter Akt. Deuxieme Acte: Un autre est son epoux!/J' aurais sur ma poitrine - Jose Carreras/Malcolm King/Paul Crook/Thomas Allen
  14. Act Two. Zweiter Akt. Deuxieme Acte: Mais celle qui devint ma femme - Jose Carreras/Thomas Allen
  15. Act Two. Zweiter Akt. Deuxieme Acte: Frere, voyez le beau bouquet!/Du gai soleil, plein de flamme - Isobel Buchanan/Thomas Allen/Frederica von Stade/Jose Carreras

Disc: 2
  1. Act Two. Zweiter Akt. Deuxieme Acte:Ah! qu'il est loin ce jour plein d'intime douceur - Isobel Buchanan/Frederica von Stade
  2. Act Two. Zweiter Akt. Deuxieme Acte: Lorsque l'enfant revient d'un voyage avant l' heure/Mais... - Isobel Buchanan/Thomas Allen/Frederica von Stade/Jose Carreras
  3. Act Three - Dritter Akt . Troisieme Acte: Prelude. Vorspiel. Prelude - Massenet, Jules
  4. Act Three - Dritter Akt . Troisieme Acte:Werther! Werther...Qui m' aurait dit la place/Ces lettres.. - Frederica Von Stade
  5. Act Three - Dritter Akt . Troisieme Acte: Bonjour, grande soeur!/Mais souffres-tu? - Frederica von Stade/Isobel Buchanan
  6. Act Three - Dritter Akt . Troisieme Acte: Va! Laisse couler mes larmes/Les larmes qu' on ne.... - Frederica von Stade/Isobel Buchanan
  7. Act Three - Dritter Akt . Troisieme Acte: Ah! mon Courage M' Abandonne! - Frederica Von Stade
  8. Act Three - Dritter Akt . Troisieme Acte: Oui C'est Moi!/Pourquoi cette parole amere?Traduire... - Jose Carreras/Frederica von Stade
  9. Act Three - Dritter Akt . Troisieme Acte: Pourquoi me reveiller, o souffle du printemps? - Jose Carreras
  10. Act Three - Dritter Akt . Troisieme Acte: N'achevez pas! - Ciel, ai-je compris? - Jose Carreras/Frederica von Stade
  11. Act Three - Dritter Akt . Troisieme Acte: Ah! Moi! Moi! Dans ses bras!/Mais non, c'est impossible - Jose Carreras/Frederica von Stade
  12. Act Three - Dritter Akt . Troisieme Acte: Werther est de retour - Thomas Allen/Frederica von Stade
  13. Act Four . Vierter Akt . Quatrieme Acte: The Night before Christmas(Orch) Weihnachtsnacht(Orch) - Massenet, Jules
  14. Act Four . Vierter Akt . Quatrieme Acte: Werther!..Rein!/Non! non! c'est... - Frederica Von Stade
  15. Act Four . Vierter Akt . Quatrieme Acte: Qui parle? - Jose Carreras/Frederica von Stade
  16. Act Four . Vierter Akt . Quatrieme Acte: Oui, du jour meme - Jose Carreras/Frederica von Stade
  17. Act Four . Vierter Akt . Quatrieme Acte: Noel! Noel! Noel! - Oui Noel, c'est... - Children From The Royal Opr House production/Jose Carreras/Isobel Buchanan
  18. Act Four . Vierter Akt . Quatrieme Acte: Ah! Ses Yeux se ferment/ La-bas, au fond du cimetiere - Jose Carreras/Frederica von Stade/Children from the Royal Oper.



Opera (drame lyrique) in four acts by Massenet to a libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet, and Georges Hartmann after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers
(‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’, 1774) 


Charlotte, aged 20                                                             -mezzo-soprano
Sophie, her sister, aged 15                                                -soprano
Werther, a young poet, aged 23                                      -tenor
Albert, betrothed to Charlotte; aged 25                         -baritone   
Le Bailli,
Charlotte's father; aged 50                             -bass
Schmidt, a friend of the Bailli                                         -tenor 
Johann, a friend of the Bailli                                           -baritone 
Brühlmann, a young man                                               -tenor
Käthchen, Brühlmann's fiancée of seven years          -mezzo-soprano
Children of the Bailli – Fritz, Max, Hans,
Karl, Gretel, Clara                                                        -
children's voices    
Inhabitants of Wetzlar, guests, servants;
off-stage women’s and children’s voices


Time: Within the period July to December, in an undefined year in the 1780s.
Place: Wetzlar in Germany.

Premiere Cast, 16 February 1892



In July, the widowed Bailiff (a Magistrate, rather than one who comes to seize property), is teaching his six youngest children a Christmas carol ("Noël! Jésus vient de naître"). His drinking companions, Johann and Schmidt, arrive as Charlotte, the eldest daughter, dresses for a ball. Since her fiancé Albert is away, she is to be escorted by Werther, whom the Bailiff and his companions find gloomy. Werther arrives ("O Nature, pleine de grâce"), and watches as Charlotte prepares her young siblings' supper, just as her mother had before she died. He greets her and they leave for the ball. Albert returns unexpectedly after a six-month trip. He is unsure of Charlotte's intentions and disappointed not to find her at home, but is reassured and consoled by Charlotte's younger sister Sophie. He leaves after promising to return in the morning. After an orchestral interlude, Werther and Charlotte return very late; he is already enamoured of her. His declaration of love is interrupted by the announcement of Albert's return. Charlotte recalls how she promised her dying mother she would marry Albert. Werther is in despair.


It is three months later, and Charlotte and Albert are now married. They walk happily to church to celebrate the minister's 50th wedding anniversary, followed by the disconsolate Werther ("Un autre est son époux!"). First Albert and then Sophie ("Du gai soleil, plein de flamme") try to cheer him up. When Charlotte exits the church, he speaks to her of their first meeting. Charlotte begs Werther to leave her, though she indicates that she would be willing to receive him again on Christmas Day. Werther contemplates suicide ("Lorsque l'enfant revient d'un voyage"). He encounters Sophie but the tearful girl does not understand his distressing behavior. Albert now realizes that Werther loves Charlotte.


Charlotte is at home alone on Christmas Eve. She spends time rereading the letters that she has received from Werther ("Werther! Qui m'aurait dit ... Ces lettres!"), wondering how the young poet is and how she had the strength to send him away. Sophie comes in and tries to cheer up her older sister ("Ah! le rire est béni"), though Charlotte is not to be consoled ("Va! laisse couler mes larmes"). Suddenly Werther appears, and while he reads to her some poetry of Ossian ("Pourquoi me réveiller?"), he realizes that she does indeed return his love. They embrace for a moment, but she quickly bids him farewell. He leaves with thoughts of suicide. Albert returns home to find his wife distraught. Werther sends a messenger to Albert, requesting to borrow his pistols, explaining he is going on an extended trip. After the servant has taken them, Charlotte has a terrible premonition and hurries to find Werther. An orchestral intermezzo ("La nuit de Noël") leads without a break into the final Act.


"The death of Werther":

At Werther's apartment, Charlotte has arrived too late to stop him from shooting himself; he is dying. She consoles him by declaring her love. He asks for forgiveness. After he dies, Charlotte faints. Outside children are heard singing the Christmas carol.

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