Last Updated on September 22, 2019 by Fiona Maclean
Sturm und Drang at the Royal Opera House with Werther.
There is a clear contrast in the piece between Werther’s more refined sensibility and a more emotionally robust approach to the world exemplified in the performances of French tenor Vincent Ordonneau as Schmidt and Scottish-Iranian bass-baritone Michael Mofidian as Johann, two bucolic chaps whose call to arms is every wine drinker’s catchphrase ‘Vivat Bacchus’.
The opera isn’t without its lighter moments and opens with English bass Alastair Miles’ trenchant take on the character of The Bailli, who is the mayor of the town and also the father of Charlotte, training his kids von Trapp style to sing Xmas carols in the middle of the summer. It is the sound of the children’s voices that close off the drama bringing things full circle, but stuck in that awkward adolescent space between youth and adulthood is the character of Charlotte’s younger Sophie played by American soprano Heather Engebretson. It’s a difficult role, Sophie is immature, coquettish and frankly annoying, but Engebretson brings a welcome lightness of touch both vocally and in her acting to the part.
British conductor Edward Gardner coaxes Massenet‘s lush melancholia out of the orchestra in an impeccably paced performance with a sense that the drama is constantly being driven forward by the music.
Designer Charles Edwards’ cloudy backdrop for the first two acts is a bit nondescript but he deserves plaudits for the lighting and set for Act 3 with its painterly interior and for the stunning opening to Act 4 as the blacked-out stage is lit up by fireflies with Werther’s distant garret zooming into focus at the front of the stage.
Werther opens on 17 September 2019, with subsequent performances on 20, 24, and 27 September, and 1 and 5 October 2019.
For more information about this production of Werther click here.
Do take a look at our preview of this season’s productions at the Royal Opera House
Royal Opera House
London WC2E 9DD