Werther

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PreviousSeptember 2023
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Synopsis
Time: Within the period July to December, in an undefined year in the 1780s.
Place: Wetzlar in Germany.


Act 1
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 here, but is reassured and consoled by Charlotte's younger sister Sophie. He leaves after promising to return in the morning. After an orchestral interlude ("Clair de lune"), 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.

Act 2
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.

Act 3

 
Charlotte is at home alone on Christmas Eve. She spends time rereading Werther's letters to herself ("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.

Act 4
"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.

Program and cast

Conducted by Antonio Pappano


Cast


Jonas Kaufmann, Aigul Akhmetshina, Gordon Bintner, Sarah Gilford, Alastair Miles

Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera is a company based in central London, resident at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Along with the English National Opera, it is one of the two principal opera companies in London. Founded in 1946 as the Covent Garden Opera Company, it was known by that title until 1968. It brought a long annual season and consistent management to a house that had previously hosted short seasons under a series of impresarios. Since its inception, it has shared the Royal Opera House with the dance company now known as The Royal Ballet.
 

When the company was formed, its policy was to perform all works in English, but since the late 1950s most operas have been given in the original language. From the outset, performers have comprised a mixture of British and Commonwealth singers and international guest stars, but fostering the careers of singers from within the company was a consistent policy of the early years. Among the many guest performers have been Maria Callas, Plácido Domingo, Kirsten Flagstad, Hans Hotter, Birgit Nilsson, Luciano Pavarotti and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Among those who have risen to international prominence from the ranks of the company are Geraint Evans, Joan Sutherland, Kiri Te Kanawa and Jon Vickers.
 

The company's growth under the management of David Webster from modest beginnings to parity with the world's greatest opera houses was recognised by the grant of the title "The Royal Opera" in 1968. Under Webster's successor, John Tooley, appointed in 1970, The Royal Opera prospered, but after his retirement in 1988, there followed a period of instability and the closure of the Royal Opera House for rebuilding and restoration between 1997 and 1999. The 21st century has seen a stable managerial regime once more in place. The company has had six music directors since its inception: Karl Rankl, Rafael Kubelík, Georg Solti, Colin Davis, Bernard Haitink and Antonio Pappano.

Transport

Underground
Covent Garden tube station on the Piccadilly Line.
Visit the Transport for London website to plan your journey.

Buses
1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 26, 68, 76, 77a, 91, 168, 171, 176, 188, 501 (southbound only), 505, 521, X68 all go to the Aldwych, which is close to the Theatre.


Parking
There is no designated parking at the Royal Opera House for ticket holders. The nearest NCP car parks are five minutes’ walk away at Drury Lane and Shelton Street. There is a drop-off point outside the Bow Street entrance. A limited number of orange badge bays are available in the vicinity, but are not reserved for the use of Royal Opera House patrons.

 

Entrances

    The New Arcade in the corner of Covent Garden Piazza.
    Bow Street at the right-hand end of the main entrance portico (close to the lifts to the Amphitheatre).
    Bow Street immediately to the left of the Paul Hamlyn Hall (close to the Box Office and Information Desk).

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