[Met Performance] CID:291940

Metropolitan Opera House, Wed, March 30, 1988

Werther received six performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Will Crutchfield in The New York Times

Kraus and von Stade in Metropolitan's 'Werther'

Three arias well understood and one scene precisely enacted were the highlights of Wednesday night's "Werther" at the Metropolitan Opera. They could not, by themselves, take a very good performance into the realm of the memorable, but a very good performance with memorable moments is a lot, and the company deserves congratulations for this revival, which will have five more performances before the end of the season next month.

The three arias were Sophie's "Du gal soleil," sung with fresh, sunny tone and an enchanting soft high A by Dawn Upshaw; the protagonist's "Pourquoi me reveiller," in which Alfredo Kraus let simple, true feeling speak through a responsive voice, and Charlotte's "Val Laisse couler mes larmes" - this last benefiting not only from Frederica von Stade's lovely tone but also from an unusually sensitive, unhurried, lovingly shaped accompaniment by Jean Fournet. Mr. Fournet is not an ultra-precise conductor; he did not, for instance, secure uniformly coordinated wind and brass attacks. But he is one of the few remaining in his profession who can lead a theatrical performance with a sure hand, interacting with the performers on the stage. At the same time his care for the orchestration reminded one afresh of Massenet's skill in that sphere.

The successful scene was the very end of Act II. Werther rushes off distraught, leaving Sophie to join the dancers bewildered and hurt; Charlotte has a more subtle suppressed reaction; her husband, Albert, realizes not just that Werther loves his

wife, but that it could mean trouble. All this happens very quickly, with dark interjections into prevailing music of celebration. At the Met everyone conveyed what was needed at the right time, and the moment told.

This kind of basic getting-it-right is what the house needs from its resident stage directors, and if Fabrizio Melano had achieved more of it in "Werther," there would have been a better show. At several other spots in the opera, singers could have sharpened their portrayals with a little guidance, unconvincing moves could have been avoided, important turning points could have been better clinched. (When Charlotte, reading over Werther's letters, says she ought to destroy them but cannot, the conflicting feelings run too deep to be illustrated by a quick gesture toward a tabletop candle.

Mr. Kraus gave a really fine performance as Werther, and it is hard to imagine that any other tenor still singing the part would be preferable in it. He commands the range of dynamics to make the intimate sections work in the big Met auditorium he rides the orchestra easily in the climaxes, he sounds and looks the part, and he gives his lines sincere, heartfelt expression.

What more could one ask? Something sweeter in the tone, perhaps, and a slightly different grasp of the character's inwardly more intense and outwardly more reticent nature, intoxicated by the draught of happy feelings in the first scene. And then less important than good voice and true interpretation, but still important - better French pronunciation. It was an excellent assumption, but not quite as special as the same artist's recent Des Grieux in 'Manon.'

In Mr. Kraus's Spanish-accented French one at least understood clearly the words and sentences; most of his colleagues were flavorless in their delivery of the text. The flavor of Miss von Stade's voice, though, is still delicious, and Charlotte is a role well suited to her; she did some lovely work, though the size of the house (and the vocal strategies she adopts to function in a world of too large houses) sometimes worked against her. She did not always succeed in making vivid the flashes of emotion that interlace Charlotte's dutiful public role. Miss Upshaw as a delight in just about every way. Renato Capecchi was a sprightly Baliff. Richard Stillwell sounded sadly worn and gruff as Albert.

Frederica von Stade as Charlotte in Massenet's Werther.

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