Metropolitan Opera broadcasts tragic love story ‘Werther’ live in HD

Telegraph correspondentMarch 14, 2014 

Sophie Koch, as Charlotte, and Jonas Kaufmann, as the title character, perform in a scene from “Werther.”

KEN HOWARD — Metropolitan Opera

Goethe’s well-known epistolary novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther” will spring to life at the Douglass Theatre on Saturday when the historic venue hosts the HD broadcast of Jules Massenet’s “Werther” from the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

While Massenet is French, the plot of “Werther” (1892) is based on the 1775 semi-autobiographical novel by Goethe, one of Germany’s best-loved writers. Aptly termed a “revolutionary and tragic romance,” the Met production features tenor Jonas Kaufmann, himself the subject of a full-page article in the Feb. 9 New York Times. Kaufman is described as “currently the most in-demand, versatile and exciting tenor in opera.”

Also in the cast is Sophie Koch, making her Met debut in the role of Charlotte, young Werther’s love interest.

This tale of a love triangle is not calculated to brighten our day. As the scene opens, young Charlotte’s fiancée being away, the gloomy poet Werther has been designated to escort her to a ball. As fate would have it, Werther falls in love with Charlotte, but while he is in the process of declaring his love, the pair learn of the return of Albert, her fiancée.

Since Charlotte had promised her dying mother that she would wed Albert, to Werther’s despair, Charlotte and Albert are married. The seeds of tragedy are sown, however, when we learn that Werther’s passion has in no way subsided -- even after the passage of several months.

On Christmas Eve, while Charlotte is alone and thinking of the young poet, he appears and, while he realizes that she returns his love, she nevertheless sends him away. Werther, concluding that one of the three must die, borrows Albert’s pistols, and the stage is set for the tragic denouement.

While I am a fan of Goethe, I have never before had the opportunity to witness this opera by Massenet, so Saturday’s broadcast presents a rare opportunity. Bring your tissues.

“Werther”

When: 12:55 p.m. March 15

Where: Douglass Theatre, 355 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Cost: $24 adults, $20 seniors

Information: www.metopera.org/hdlive, 478-742-2000

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