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Oper und Konzert, 2/1987
Werther--performance in December 1986
Vienna Staatsoper
It was an evening full of extremely beautiful sadness: delicate and poetic scenery, brave achievements in singing, yearning and anguish, plus music full of all-consuming passion pictured in vivid colors - a triumph of sensibility; the audience was moved to tears…

Impressive scenery and splendid costumes by Pierluigi Samaritani - who is also the director - breathe of painful love and tragic anguish of parting.  Gorgeous spring surrounds the house of the amtmann; happy children swing and rehearse (well in advance) a Christmas song, while Charlotte gives out the cake. Werther comes through green vaults, sees Lotte and lapses into daydream. His heart sinks at the news about her on-coming wedding. In the second act, the park in saturated autumn colors becomes the scene of conversation between Albert, who already married Charlotte, and Werther. Charlotte rejects Werther after another declaration of love. He does not want to escort her sister to a dance. Tears and despair darken the coming feast. Fear creeps over Charlotte as she reads Werther's letters on Christmas Eve. He appears, pale and confused; his friend refuses him the expected kiss, but brings - in contrast with Goethe's novel  - the pistols he asked for. During the orchestra  interlude we see Lotte at Werther's house; she looks for her friend and finds him shot in the wintry garden, at the place of their first encounter. She declares her love to the dying man and kisses him - in Goethe's novel she keeps silence, and Werther dies alone. When children tune a joyful Chrismas song, she falls unconscious, cut down with a feeling of guilt.
The ideal cast guarantees success for the romantic and passionate music.  Jose Carreras sings the title role with warmth and enthusiasm; he lets his sublime pianos bloom and rises from vehemence and selflessness to burning despair. His acting moves. Charlotte (Agnes Baltsa) convinces with calm and very even phrases, full of soft passivity; however, the great feeling she puts into singing makes every tone shine. The warm and sonorous baritone of Bernd Weikl (Albert) catches his heartless character lying; in minor roles the friendly and pleasant amtmann (Peter Wimberger) and his friend (Helmut Wildhaber) attract attention, and so does Eva Lind's lovely voice (Sophie).  Director Samaritani with decent arrangements and cautious leading of personages had managed his task.
For the first time Sir Colin Davis is at the conductor's stand of the Vienna Staatsoper. Already the intense prelude gives away a new, remarkable hand.  Both in soft intermezzos and dramatic outbursts the orchestra models the poetic narrative with nobility and delicacy; at culminations of the tragedy it is not stingy of pungent accents. As Massenet said in 1882, "it was a rare performance: the orchestra followed the singers in superfine nuances, and I could not keep in my rapture any more". These words have still not lost their significance.
Dr. Irene-Marianne Kinne  -  English translation: © Maria Kozlova