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Flashback Friday - - *Werther,* 2014

It's Goethe's birthday on Monday! He would be 268 years old, if he were still alive. And if he were still alive, I don't think he'd smell very good. I'm honoring him by featuring my review of the Met's new production of *Werther,* seen in 2014.

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Richard and I and our friend David saw Massenet’s *Werther* at the Met on Friday 2/28. I’d never seen it before, had never seen a Massenet opera onstage before, so this was a big deal for me. It’s a new production, mounted for Jonas Kaufmann, a brilliant young German tenor. I’ve heard him five times at the Met, and he’s blown me away every time. Incredible voice with a very dark color, and such a thorough musician. His leading lady was supposed to have been Elina Garanča, but she had to cancel because she’s having a baby. The Met brought in French mezzo Sophie Koch, who had sung this with Kaufmann a few times before. This was her Met debut and she was fantastic. A beautiful voice, full of color, and of course she had a delicious way with the French. The young Cuban-American soprano Lisette Oropesa made a big splash as the leading lady’s younger sister - - my dear friend Frank says that this role is one of the most thankless roles in opera, but she certainly made a strong impression.

The production was a mixed bag. They used video projections during the overture and the interludes, and they didn’t add anything. Actually, they took away from the production, because it felt like the director didn’t think the audience was smart enough to sit through three minutes of music without some kind of visual element accompanying it. The set was just fine, but I got a little tired of looking at those sideways-leaning walls after a while. We know the guy is going crazy, we don’t need the walls to illustrate that. But all was forgiven in the final scene - - it took place in Werther’s room, which was a smallish box that came onstage from the back. And when he shot himself in the stomach, it splashed the blood onto the wall behind him. You know I loved that! Richard thought it was a bit of a stretch that he shot himself and then spent the next twenty minutes singing and grasping the leading lady. I said, “Honey, welcome to the opera.” Or similar.

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