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Massenet - Werther / Alagna · Gheorghiu · Hampson · Petibon · Courtis · Fouchécourt · Frémeau · LSO · Pappano

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 19, 1999
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Editorial Reviews


The modern discography of Massenet's Werther has long been dominated by the (currently out of print) Philips recording starring José Carreras and Frederica von Stade as well as the earlier EMI version with Alfredo Kraus and Tatiana Troyanos. But this EMI newcomer is within shouting distance of greatness, mainly due to conductor Antonio Pappano. Although any Werther succeeds or fails on the strength of its singers, the conductor is a crucial catalyst (on the Philips set, it's Colin Davis, while on EMI it's Michel Plasson) for maintaining the poetic intensity in a drama that can too easily seem like a naive case study in stalking. The Byronic title character essentially practices emotional blackmail on the married woman he loves by never hiding his suicidal tendencies, though one never thinks such mundane thoughts with tenor Roberto Alagna. Although his voice lacks the tenor bloom one might want, he's so at home with the role and the French language that he delivers a characterization full of imagination and immediacy, sometimes bordering on vocal genius. Soprano Angela Gheoghiu's vocal center is too high for this mezzo role, but she makes a vivid impression through the sheer force of her personality. Thomas Hampson gives vocal glamour but surprising dramatic restraint to the role of her husband, Albert. Although the sound quality is somewhat studio bound, Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra play as if it's a live performance. --David Patrick Stearns

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Werther: Prelude (Orchestra)
  2. Werther: Act One: Assez! Assez! M'ecouterat-on cette fois? (Le Bailli, Les Enfants)
  3. Werther: Act One: Bravo pour les enfants! (Johann, Schmidt, Les Enfants, Le Bailli, Sophie)
  4. Werther: Act One: Alors, c'est bien ici la maison du Bailli?
  5. Werther: Act One: Je ne sais si je veille (Werther)
  6. Werther: Act One: Jesus vient de naitre!...Chers enfants! (Les Enfants, Werther)
  7. Werther: Act One: Ah! comme ils sont meilleurs que moi! (Werther, Les enfants, Le Bailli)
  8. Werther: Act One: Arrivez donc, Bruhlmann! (Le Bailli, Charlotte, Werther, Sophie)
  9. Werther: Act One: O spectacle ideal d'amour et d'innocence (Werther)
  10. Werther: Act One: Monsieur Werther!...Vivat Bacchus, semper vivat! (Le Bailli, Charlotte, Sophie)
  11. Werther: Act One: Sophie!...Albert! Toi de retour! (Albert, Sophie)
  12. Werther: Act One: Elle m'aime!...Quelle priere de reconnaissance et d'amour (Albert)
  13. Werther: Act One: Interlude (Orchestre)
  14. Werther: Act One: Interlude (continued) ...Il Faut nous separer
  15. Werther: Act One: Mais vous ne savez rien de moi
  16. Werther: Act One: Reve! Extase! Bonheur! (Charlotte, Werther)
  17. Werther: Act One: Charlotte! Charlotte! Albert est de retour! (Le Bailli, Charlotte, Werther)
  18. Werther: Act Two: Prelude (Orchestre) ....Vivat Bacchus! Semper vivat!
  19. Werther: Act Two: Allez, chantez l'office (Johann, Schmidt)
  20. Werther: Act Two: Trois mois! Voici trois mois que nous sommes unis! (Albert, Charlotte)
  21. Werther: Act Two: Un autre est son epoux!
  22. Werther: Act Two: J'aurais sur ma poitrine (Werther)
  23. Werther: Act Two: Si! Katchen reviendra, je vous dis! (Schmidt, Johann)
  24. Werther: Act Two: Au bonheur dont mon ame est pleine...Vous l'avez dit: mon ame est loyale et sincere (Albert, Werther)
  25. Werther: Act Two: Frere, voyez! Voyez le beau bouquet!...Heureux! Pourais-je l'etre encore? (Sophie, Werther, Albert)
  26. Werther: Act Two: Ai-je dit vrai? L'amour que j'ai pour elle Ah! qu'il est loin, ce jour plein d'intime douceur
  27. Werther: Act Two: N'est-il donc pas d'autre femme
  28. Werther: Act Two: Oui, ce qu'elle m'ordonne
  29. Werther: Act Two: Lorsque l'enfant revient d'un voyage avant l'heure
  30. Werther: Act Two: Mais venez donc! le cortege s'approche (Sophie, Werther, Charlotte, Albert)

Disc: 2

  1. Werther: Act Three: Prelude (Orchestra)
  2. Werther: Act Three: Werther! Werther!...Qui m'aurait dit la place
  3. Werther: Act Three: Des cris joyeux d'enfants montent sous ma fenetre (Charlotte)
  4. Werther: Act Three: Bonjour, grand soeur! (Sophie, Charlotte)
  5. Werther: Act Three: Va! Laisse couler mes larmes (Charlotte)
  6. Werther: Act Three: Tiens, Charlotte, crois-moi, ne reste pas ici (Sophie, Charlotte)
  7. Werther: Act Three: Ah! mon courage m'abandonne! (Charlotte)
  8. Werther: Act Three: Qui, c'est moi! Je reviens! (Werner, Charlotte)
  9. Werther: Act Three: Ha! bien souvent...Toute mon ame est la!...Pourquoi me reveiller, o souffle du printemps? (Werner)
  10. Werther: Act Three: N'achevez pas! Helas!
  11. Werther: Act Three: Ah! Moi! Moi, dans ses bras! (Charlotte, Werther)
  12. Werther: Act Three: Werther, est de retour...on la vu revenir (Albert, Charlotte)
  13. Werther: Act Four: Entr'acte: La Nuit de Noel (Orchestra)
  14. Werther: Act Four: Werther! Werther! Rien! (Charlotte)
  15. Werther: Act Four: Qui parle? Charlotte, ah! c'est toi!
  16. Werther: Act Four: A cette heure supreme, je suis heureux (Charlotte, Werther)
  17. Werther: Act Four: Noel! Noel! Noel!...Dieu! Ces cris joyeux (Les Enfants, Charlotte, Werther, Sophie)
  18. Werther: Act Four: Ah! ses yeux se ferment!...Non...Charlotte!...je meurs (Charlotte, Werther)

Product Details

  • Performer: Jules Massenet, Antonio Pappano, Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu, London Symphony Orchestra, et al.
  • Audio CD (October 19, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B00001ZSVU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #374,777 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joy Fleisig on December 8, 1999
Format: Audio CD
For those of you who are not familiar with Werther or who do not speak French, I will translate that title for you: "Dream! Exctasy! Happiness!". It is what Werther feels as he gazes at his beloved under the moonlight, and what I felt listening to this stunning new recording.
Ever since Roberto Alagna recorded "Pourquoi me reveiller?" for his first recital CD, I have been eagerly awaiting him to sing the entire role, an appetite further whetted by his wonderful renditions of Don Carlos, Romeo and Hoffmann. Nothing, however, prepared me for just how fantastic he is here. The voice has such beauty, warmth and sweetness, and a dark color perfectly suited to Werther's melancholy. Whatever minor technical problems he might have had in the past are just a fleeting memory. His upper register has really solidified, and he manages not only a stupendous C at the end of the "Prodigal Son" aria (and he really seems to be praying!), but gorgeous dreamy pianissimi in the "Claire de lune" scene and especially the Act II duet with Thomas Hampson. Of course, his French is superb, and his diction is so good that if I spoke the language better I wouldn't even need the libretto. Most important, he truly lives the role, and projects every emotion and nuance of the text perfectly. He is the finest interpreter of the role since Georges Thill and Alfredo Kraus.
There may be those who prefer a mezzo to a soprano in this role, but Angela Gheorghiu is the latest in a long line of excellent soprano Charlottes. Her voice is like the most radiant and beautiful starry night you can imagine, perfect for the "Clair de lune".
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This is an excellent recording .It has everything going for it.Wonderful sound,brilliant orchestra,conductor and singers.Roberto Alagna is perfect for the title role.This is the sort of stuff that he does best,his glorious lyric tenor conveying all of the suffering and pathos of poor Werther.His best work yet.Angela Gheorgiu is also excellent,especially in the Act three monologue.Hampson is his usual wonderful self even in this rather boring role(can this man do anything wrong?)Pappano picks the right speeds and dynamics and keeps the piece moving.Highly recommended!
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I will admit that I am "imprinted" on the Georges Thill/Ninon Vallin recording from the 1930s and no recording since then has even come close. But this recording does. Alagna (who is a native French speaker, in spite of the Italian name) has the diction and, more important, the style to sing poor Werther perfectly. Gheorghiu sings beautifully as well, and there is no problem with the tessitura, in spite of Charlotte generally being more comfortable for mezzos. Pappano is an up-and-coming conductor who does himself proud with this recording. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one.
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The reviewers below have praised this EMI Werther so thoroughly that there's little to add. Gheorghiu is the only soprano besides Victoria de los Angeles (1868, also on EMI) to record this classic mezzo role, and at times one hears the strain as she reaches for the bottom notes. She lacks de los angeles's many emotional shadings, giving us instead a fairly consistent, verismo-tinged passion, but her vocalism as such is thrilling.

Roberto alagna, a native French speaker despite his name, is the only prominent Werther who can claim that distinciton. I've always felt he was much better suited to French opera than the heavier Verdi-Puccini roles that he now sings, and which (shadoes of Carreras) have led to a coarsening of his voice, along with a pronounced wobble and intonation problems. but he is a star, no doubt, and here he brings charisma and style to Wether. He takes care to find many musical shadings throughout, and since the date for this recording is 1998-99, he is nearly in best voice.

Everyone has praised Pappano (are they following the lead of The Gramophone reviewer, who thought he was the best thing here?), but Colin Davis, Georges Pretre, and Kent Nagano had done as well. Pappano;s distinciton is that he is a bit slower, more dleiberate, and self-consciously refined. I'm not sure that's always a great advantage in Massanet, whose music is given to sighs and longueurs--it can use help form an energetic conductor. EMI's recording form London is a bit distant but otherwise quite good.

In all, this is a gripping peformance that deserves all the praise it has gotten, but it doesn't erase memories of other fine Werthers, an opera that has been amazingly successful on records.
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Husband and wife singing sensatio Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu, in another stunning EMI recording, dramatically commit themselves to the passionate characters in this now forgotten opera Werther, which quite possibly is Massenet's best work. Although Alagna and Gheorghiu can sing the Italian opera repertoire with aplomb (Tosca, Trovatore, Boheme, Pagliacci, La Rondine) they have proven time and again that their strongest reperotoire is French opera. As soon as their Romeo Et Juliette hit record stores and stage houses, they were immediately hailed as today's finest French opera singers, a rarity. Not only do they possess beautiful voices but they are intensely dramatic and character-driven. Never more so than in Massenet's Werther, a Gothic romantic drama about the tormented love of the titular hero who kills himself. It's drawn from a popular Romantic-Era 19th century novel - The Sorrows of Young Werther. Both Alagna and Gheorghiu are in great vocal shape. They understand the significance of the text and they are blessed with the talents of their champion conductor, Antonio Pappano, who draws out the power in the musical score with the London Symphony Orchestra. All true fans of Alagna and Gheorghiu will want to own this one, as it is indeed their best work yet.

Roberto Alagna has been criticized for his flawed technique- he sings with self-conscious grandeur and often imitates the lyric tones of predecessors Giuseppe Di Stefano and Franco Corelli. He has a nearly "pop" style voice - all razzzle-dazzle, great volume, beautiful tone, but often fails in the more difficult music. He is however, very gifted and intelligent and attempts to sing with as much passion and drama as possible. I for one love what I hear from him, especially in this recording, where he has never sang better.
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