Boy Meets Girl – Watch "Werther" in Theatres

Jonas Kaufmann

Boy meets girl, passionate feelings, unrequited love, societal restraints of duty, hopeless love, tragic ending, all are plot elements in the lyric drama Werther by French composer Jules Massenet (1842-1912).

Transmitted live in high definition and surround sound into selected movie theaters around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series, Werther will be seen this Saturday, March 15, at 12:55 pm.  Opera Lovers in West Virginia can see this new production at the Cinemark Theater at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville; Regal Nitro Stadium 12; and Hollywood Stadium 12 in Granville/Morgantown, as well as at the Cinemark Theater in Ashland, Kentucky.  With an approximate running time of three hours and fifteen minutes, Werther will be sung in French with English subtitles. Get tickets here.

The young German writer Goethe wrote a semi-biographical novel The Sorrows of Young Werther , in the form of a collection of letters from Werther to an unseen friend.  Werther, his protagonist, tells of his love for Charlotte, a young woman who is betrothed to another man.  This impossible , ever-intensifying love leads the self-absorbed Werther to suicide.  The focus of Goethe’s novel was on Werther’s feverish mind but Massenet and his librettists Edouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann, expanded the focus to include rich, full characterizations of Charlotte, her husband Albert and the society in which the protagonists’ passions collide with convention and honor.

Jules Massenet was the dominant French opera composer of the late nineteenth century.  He completed some 30 operas but Manon (1884) and Werther (1892) are his most performed works.  Massenet had a great gift for rich melodies and heart-wrenching stories.  With continuous music of bittersweet quality throughout the opera, Massenet portrays Werther’s desperate love and Charlotte’s emotional disarray through the poetry of recitatives and the lyricism of intense arias.

“German Jonas Kaufmann, currently the most in-demand, versatile and exciting tenor in opera, sings the title role of Werther.  To be a great Werther, a tenor must somehow be charismatic, yet detached, vocally impassioned, yet ethereal.  Kaufmann sings with dark colorings, melting warmth, virile intensity and powerful top notes.” (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times review).

French mezzo- soprano Sophie Koch in her Met debut role, “brings a plush strong voice and aching vulnerability” to the role of the 20-year-old Charlotte.  Koch’s command of the role’s singular dramatic and musical challenges is impressive.”

If you are unable to see the simulcast this Saturday, there will be an encore showing on Wednesday, March 19, at 6:30 pm.

I will have an open discussion of Werther this Thursday, March 17, at 7 pm in Smith Music Hall 123 on the Huntington campus of Marshall University.  Come and join us.

Larry Stickler is a Professor of Music at Marshall University