Composer Jules Massenet and his operas are is no strangers to the Jacobs School of Music audiences. His Manon is a regular visitor and his “Cinderella,” Cendrillon, was there just a few years ago. But Werther, based on the passionate novel by Goethe, hasn’t been seen since 1975. On the basis of Saturday night’s performance, it’s been worth waiting for.
The set and costumes from Minnesota Opera contrast small intimate garden, tavern, and household scenes warmly managed by stage director Candace Evans with a 19th-century industrial backdrop of a canal with smoky factories in the distance. The setting was always a stark reminder of the reality of life around the romance. Conductor Ronald Zollman fully exploited the large lush orchestral gestures, while supporting the singers and the quieter scenes.
The innocent and high strung poet Werther, falls in love with Charlotte. Saturday’s Werther, Lorenzo Miguel Garcia, had the demanding tenor role. The slightly less innocent Charlotte–she is engaged after all–also falls in love. It’s a poisonously magic moment. Jacquelyn Matava, whom IU Opera goers may remember as Massenet’s Cinderella, had the extensive role of Charlotte.
Reuben Walker sang the role of Charlotte’s widowed father and Scott Stauffer and Travis Bloom made up a nice trio as his boisterous companions. Elise Marie Kennedy was a charmer as Charlotte’s younger sister Sophie.
The carol singing ensemble of the younger children in the family are a key element of the drama. They first set the stage with the happy family and later as the suicidal Werther becomes more and more delusional their pure sounds are a striking contrast.
Massenet’s Werther plays this Friday and Saturday November 1st and 2nd. As a special offer, IU Opera Theater is making a two-for-one ticket offer for these final performances.
opera by Jules Massenet
IU Musical Arts Center
October 25, 26 and November 1 and 2, 2013