Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Werther Perfection!

EDIT/ SoI'm gonna have to edit the post (I'm not taking anything out, I'm just adding) because more videos have appeared, and again I've had a freak out, so everything that's underlined has been added today, the 4th of May ;) HA if you thought this post was huge before you ain't seen nothing yet hahaha

So here I am again, I was planning on talking about Giulio Cesare in Egitto but decided otherwise. So I decided to make somewhat a sort of fangirl kind of post. First let me tell you guys something really exciting that happened last week that I forgot to mention in my last post. So, last Monday there was a broadcast of Giulio Cesare in the Met and in intermission there was trivia and as soon as William Berger said “Operas that end with fire” I screamed DON GIOVANNI, and immediately set out to send my answer to William. Just to get everyone on the same page, William Berger is creative content producer for the Met Opera, and he’s the commentator at the broadcasts via radio/internet. Well after the interview he started reading the answers and BAM, HE SAID MY NAME! At that I let out a big scream that resulted in my cousin being mad at me because my other cousin was asleep (yes, I’m living currently in an apartment without walls with my two cousins, currently sleeping at the not so comfy couch) and all I could say was “Oh my GOOOOOOOD he said my name, he said my name, my name was pronounced at the Metropolitan Opera and I haven’t even gone there yet!”. Well, William said that he was glad that I was listening all the way from Brasil and oh God I felt like a million bucks! Me and my bff rejoiced like two retarded teenagers!
Roberto Alagna and Vesselina Kasarova at curtain call of Werther at the Wiener Staatsoper
 Well anyways, speaking of freaking out, here’s the second and main thing I wanted to talk about. I had a total white shirt freak out, I mean, this opera isn’t really white shirt, but Vesselina is like the queen of white shirts, so… Let’s get down to it, last Friday the Vesselina Kasarova fans learned that she was going in as Charlotte in Werther the next day because Elina Garancia got sick. Of course we were all so happy but also I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad because I love this opera, it was after all the first live opera that moved me tears, and I wouldn’t be able to see it. And the tenor playing Werther was Roberto Alagna and he’s just magnificent doing the French repertoire, well, I was kinda upset. UNTIL, an ANGEL simply posted almost the entire thing online, let’s say ¼ of the whole opera was up on YouTube on Sunday evening and I was freaking out

So I decided to comment on these videos, let’s start from the beginning. First video is only of Roberto Alagna singing his first aria “Je ne sais si je veille ou si je rêve encore!/ O nature, pleine de grace”. I had never seen him as Werther, and let me tell you, I was very pleased with what I saw. He has that melancholic feel that I think is essential for this character, but during this aria he really looked like a somehow troubled soul (maybe a VERY light version of Onegin) finding peace in a rather simple place. And he’s sounding amazing!

So the videos on the bottom are the new ones which were filmed in on 30th. It’s basically the same scene, although we get like maybe two minutes more footage from the beggining and the end of the scene than the previous one. But as I always say, it’s a different day, it’s a different performance. Starting from the fact that since it’s a different person filming, the person chose to give us some bigger picture shots, and you can notice that Charlotte appears and Werther sees her, and she watches over him as he sings Oh Nature. Which for me gives the aria a completely different meaning, is he singing “O nature, pleine de grâce, reine du temps et de l'espace daigne accueillir celui qui passe et ta salue, humble mortel!”, as if now he sees it  because he might have just fallen in love at first sight and you perceive everything differently when you fall in love (I’m getting waaay off track here). Something that might not be but, might just as well be, was that I think Roberto looked at someone in the eye in the audience when he sang “Mère éternellement jeune, adorable et purê”. And how sweet was it that after he finished the aria he turned to look for Charlotte, but she was already hiding with her sister behind tree, seeming to wait for the perfected moment to reveal themselves. It’s adorable the way she takes the tray from her sister so maybe she might get closer to him. This video has left me on the edge of my seat yearning for a continuation! I do hope there is one; I wouldn’t mind editing this post again to post it, just saying…  

This first video was posted on Sunday, now this one was posted today. Just back from the party Werther and Charlotte have a romantic moment, they fall in love and it is super sweet! Seeing this it’s kind of hard to believe that Vesselina just walked into this production, true that she’s already done this opera with Roberto at the Met, but it was a million years ago! Excuse me while I died when Roberto sang: Rêve! Extase! Bonheur! Je donnerais ma vie pour garder à jamais ces yeux, ce front charmant, cette bouche adorable, étonnée et ravie. Sans que nul à son tour les contemple un moment! Le céleste sourire! oh! Charlotte! Je vous aime... et je vous admire! (Dream! Ecstasy! Happiness! I would give my life to look at those eyes, that enchanting face, that adorable mouth, surprised and delighted. Without anyone to turn contemplates a moment! The heavenly smile! oh! Charlotte! I love you ... and I admire you!).
One other thing I love about this is how they manage to keep their characters fresh, even though they are dramatic characters, at this point they are young and somehow naïve and that is what comes through to me, Werther finally finding what he was looking for and Charlotte hardly believing that what she was looking for was Werther and almost giving up to it.

This video is also almost the same as the one from the 27th but we also get a little bit of footage in the beginning and we get to see the scene until the end of the first act. So we discover our lovers making out before the scene begins, you go girl! It’s amazing how they were already so well together on the 27th, great chemistry and the voices melted so well with one another, and now it seems as if they have even more chemistry! The way Roberto is looking at Vesselina while she talks about the children is so romantic, it’s like he’s mesmerized with her, and he shows already Werther loves everything about her, which is so important to the story! And interestingly enough at this very moment you can see that Charlotte is also troubled soul, she’s “burdened” with taking care of and being a mother to a lot of children while the ghost of her mother looms over her, meaning Werther and Charlotte are perfect for one another, they are those kind of couples that complete each other, you know? But this is noticeable because of the way the performers are putting across their parts in actions, in intonation, in their choice of dynamic, this is truly a treat. It’s probably the best Werther I’ve ever watched, I was never really able to grasp these two characters, but after this I’m several steps closer to getting them.
And it’s nice that we get to see the end of the act, with Charlotte having almost surrendered to the moment but her dad’s voice kind of awakens her from the dream. This is one of those “what if” moments: What if her father hadn’t called her? Would she have run away? Done something she might regret? We will never know though. But the end was just amazing, as Charlotte confesses that she’s actually engaged to be married you see all the light be extinguished from Werther’s eyes, it just vanishes.

We go the second act, Charlotte has married Albert and Werther left, he comes back. He mourns Charlotte’s marriage and says how much he wished that he was the one who had married Charlotte that he alone would be the one to make her happy. It’s such a sad, sad melodramatic moment, and something I noticed in these videos is how expressive Roberto Alagna’s eyes are, you can see the pain and sadness in his eyes, it’s quite amazing. Another thing, these videos are of amazing quality, this kind of technology hasn’t gotten to Brasil yet haha. Albert arrives and talks to Werther as to how he knows Charlotte is really in love with him and that even though he forgives Werther for that.
Let me say something, Albert has got to be the character I most hate in this opera, if it weren’t for him, if he didn’t exist, Charlotte and Werther would have lived happily ever after. Of course then there would not be an interesting plot to the story, but I’m always rooting for things to end up well in stories and am always frustrated that in opera they usually don’t. Then Werther sings how he’s wound has heeled and he’s not suffering anymore, it’s interesting how we know that that’s a lie and that the melody he sings and the music behind it tell a completely different story. The music shows off his suffering even though his words say otherwise, in other words, Massenet you are a genius and I love you!
Next up from the beginning of Werther's entrance just like before he gets a wonderful aria lamenting his and Charlotte’s fate. Again Alagna is sounding so amazing in this, truly heart breaking aria and a heart breaking rendition of it. Albert arrives and I think this time he really acts and sounds like a true villain, I’d be scared to be married to a man like that, I’d actually be scared to sit next to a man like that, he’s scary.

The scene continues with Charlotte’s annoying sister singing about flowers and happiness and Werther looking more and more grim, she tries to cheer him up but to no avail. Albert tells Werther he should see what’s right in his face and that he should try and look for happiness in someone who is free and holding flowers (aka annoying Sophie). They leave and Charlotte walks in and is surprised to see Werther there and tells him she can’t be with him since she’s married. First Vesselina is sporting a sort of cold worried tone, but as the scene progresses her mask starts to fall and you can see that she aches to be with Werther and it hurts her so much that she actually can’t. She pleads to him to give her peace, his presence shows her what she can never have and that haunts her, this scene is so very deep, you see Werther kind of giving up and consenting that her happiness is the most important thing for him. But Charlotte can’t be without him forever, so she tells him to come back at Christmas.
Compared to what’s coming next this is light stuff, but even in this brief scene there is so much feeling going on and both performers were able to express them. This was really a treat! Charlotte leaves and Werther gets to sing an amazing lament, again, Alagna is heavenly in this, just fantastic. After he has teared his soul apart singing Sophie comes asking him to go to the ball with her, he can’t even respond to her properly, he says he’s going away forever and leaves. Charlotte sees her sister crying and Sophie tells her Werther has left for good and Charlotte is distraught. This is noticed by her husband that finishes off the act saying “Il l'aime!”. The guy who is playing Albert is making him seem almost cruel, his expressions are very severe and in this case even hate, I don’t really like that sort of interpretation of Albert, it makes him even less likeable than he normally is.

In this one we skip Sophie’s part and go straight to Werther reuniting with Charlotte. So absurdly painful to watch how he’s so devoted to her and how she wants him but can’t. After he recalls their moments together she says the painful “Albert m'aime, et je suis sa femme! ” (Albert loves me and I’m his wife) to what Werther responds “Albert vous aime! Qui ne vous aimerait?” (Albert loves you? And who wouldn’t love you?), that just stings mon coeur, you know? And her telling him to leave, her face when she says “Partez! Partez!” is so sad, she’s afraid she won’t be able to do with him being around. And how devastated he is at hearing she wants him to leave, this time this encounter is even more tense than on the 27th, if that’s even possible, because it was pretty tense already. After she leaves Werther starts thinking about the idea of putting an end to his life in a light delusional way, and at the end when he says “Père, appelle moi!” he’s really asking to die. After he leaves we see Albert sort of dragging Charlotte by the arm, which is quite alarming and makes his villain cap fit even better. It’s interesting how this moment is dreadful for the characters but the music is upbeat and cheerful, another great musical contrast Massenet gives us.

Third act, next video right from the beginning of the act, Charlotte is so hopelessly in love with Werther, you see pain in Vesselina’s eyes, it’s absolutely heart breaking. He has been sending her letters that she’s read again and again, while she talks about the letters it’s interesting to see how in Vesselina’s acting Charlotte forgets her life and for a few moments is transported to something/somewhere her and Werther are together and happy, she smiles at the letters and is back to herself saying she should destroy them, but can’t. Then she starts reading one of the letters and you gotta hold on tight not to cry, he’s alone and miserable and she’s even more miserable because he’s miserable and because she knows she can help him, but really she can’t. So much drama, I love it! Vesselina is, by the way, sounding absolutely divine, her unique voice color is sounding clear and so, so fitted for this role, really, a perfect fit. His last letter is alarming, he says that if he doesn’t show on Christmas, she’ll never see him again, Charlotte is worried, the fear of him being gone from this earth is so touchable in her voice, it’s not a desperate tone, it’s something much deeper and scary.

Next video is when Werther actually shows up, the orchestral music composed for this bit when Charlotte sees him is absolutely gorgeous, poignant and moving. They start recalling their sweet moments together and it’s such bittersweet music and acting, what I love about this production is that they actually touch and reach out for each other. Most productions I’ve watched Charlotte was either cold to him (in her gestures) or too afraid to reach out to him, which kind of annoys me. Because I feel that a lot of her strive is the fact that he is so close you can taste it, and she actually does (by hugging him or kissing him) but at the end she can’t give into him. It’s much harder to give up to something you’ve experienced and loved than something you are too afraid of even getting close to. Just saying, that’s just my opinion. Then I die, “Pourquoi me réveiller, ô souffle du printemps?” oh my God, it’s such a heartfelt song, just like Charlotte’s “Va! laisse couler mes larmes” it’s a short yet powerful aria that destroys me from the inside out, this whole opera is really so much suffering one can take and I have a bad habit of growing too found of the characters, so I suffer along. Roberto sang majestically, really, just, amazing, he gets a big, big ovation at the end of this aria, well deserved I must add!

Third act and Werther shows up in Charlotte’s house, you see that she’s quite relieved to see him there after his dreadful promise. He says how much he didn’t really want to come back, but there wasn’t a day he didn’t think about her and helas he came back to see her. Again they have a little heaven of a moment when they recall their moments together, they seem to relax and the BAM "Pourquoi me réveiller, ô souffle du printemps?”. The beginning of this song feels like melted butter, me being the butter. (ps; funny enough the moment Roberto finished the aria and everybody cheered at the same second my dad screamed “GOAL!”, his team made a goal, and now there are fireworks and for me they are all for Roberto)

Fortunately the next video is the continuation of this scene, Werther sees that Charlotte is moved and has his confirmation that she indeed still loves him. This scene is crazy good, and is so fantastically executed, flames of hope seem to gleam from Alagna’s eyes and something like crazy bliss and gilt shine in Kasarova’s. As they sing together, Werther pleading for her to give in and Charlotte trying to hold on to her values, there’s an insane exchange going on between the performers, again , it’s hard to believe she had just walked into the production. Such chemistry it is really crazy, as he tells her he loves her, she begs for mercy and they finally end up having a rather hot kiss on the floor (YES THEY KISS, already a victory compared to some productions I’ve seen). That’s what I’m talking about, it’s much harder to walk out of a kiss like that than of a half kiss done with regret, it makes Charlotte’s struggle even more painful, I think.

But she does come to her senses and climbs the stairs in order to get away, normally after her “Adieu! adieu! pour la dernière fois!” she actually leaves, but Werther follows her up the stairs and says to her the painful “Mais non... c'est impossible! Ecoute-moi! Ma voix te rappelle! Reviens! Tu me seras sacrée! Reviens! Reviens!” she looks at him with pain tear filled eyes and kisses him goodbye and runs away. It is so heart breaking when he actually starts weeping and it is then that Werther decides that if he can’t have Charlotte he’d rather die.

Now for the continuation of the scene, again, I didn’t think this could get more intense, well it did. The way they work together is amazing and their movements are not the same as the last time and you think “Oh my God, they are really planning their actions in the moment” which in one side is super risky but when it works out, and it did, it’s extremely organic and makes their performance utterly believable, not that they weren’t, but this makes it so human, raw, touchable and relatable. (oh here I go again, shut up Isabela). Their struggle ended in a kiss and the well deserved little ovation it got, they managed to perfectly lead us to this moment when Charlotte truly looses it and really proves right for her to say next “C'est vous, vous! que je fuis l'âme désespérée!”. And oh my world, how heart breaking it is when he’s asking for her to come back and she extends her hand toward him and they embrace in the most desperate way, as if they couldn’t live without each other and then she leaves again.
Last clip Werther has shot himself and Charlotte has gone after him only to find him covered in his own blood dying. Charlotte is desperate and tries to call for help but he just tells her that all the help he needs is in her “Vois! je n'ai pas besoin d'autre aide que la tienne!” at this Vesselina makes a crying face that is heart throbbing, everything about this scene is actually heart throbbing, she is holding him and it’s so beautiful you almost forget he’s dying. She’s so tender to her caresses toward him it seems as if they’ll live forever together (hopeless romantic that I am!). Then they profess their love for one another (Werther: “je meurs en te disant que je t'adore!Charlotte: “Et moi, Werther, et moi je t'aime!”) and I almost die, she finally confesses she’s loved him ever since the beginning and I’m on the floor with depression, it’s so sad! And then she tells him she’s going to give him the kiss he so much craved for and wow, do they kiss or what! They do have a lot of orchestral heartfelt music to kiss to and they do, at these moments my heart totally skips a beat and again I sort of forget he’s drenched with blood at death’s door. As they sing “oublions tout!” (forget everything), such a sweet moment, we hear the children sing the Christmas song and are thrown back into reality, Werther is dying. PS; I’m re watching this for like the 7th time and I’m crying for the 7th time.
Werther asks Charlotte not to cry, and they embrace ever so gently and lovingly at the sound of the children and Sophie’s singing, it’s too much to take I tell you, this opera is just so depressing! At this point Charlotte is beyond desperate while Werther has quietly accepted his fate and is ready, as he dies I cry like a retarded human being and oh man, the suffering in Vesselina’s eyes is making me cry even more, he dies and  Charlotte cries out for him to no avail. She climbs off the bed and meets her husband hatred filled gaze, as she gets down to her knees probably to beg for his forgiveness he turns his back on her with a disgusted look. The end, Werther dies and so do I.
One thing really gets to me about this ending, ok, to be a tragedy at least one of the lovers must die, but I feel I would like this ending a lot more if Charlotte also killed herself. She’s gonna spend the rest of her life with the ghost of that moment and of what could have been had she run away with Werther looming over her, she should have the right to put an end to her misery too, and maybe to be with Werther in another place. That’s what I think anyways. God, this has been wonderful but somehow slightly depressing haha
Another lovely picture of the curtain call, yay, Werher is actually alive so they can be together! Shut up Isabela!
Ah, and be sure to watch the curtain call, a well deserved ovation for our heroes, I’ve posted in Vesselina’s facebook fan page. Well I guess this is it, what a HUGE post! But every time I write about Vesselina it’s normally a gigantic post. Peace everyone!

Sadly enough there was no video of the ending that must have been a real gem, well who knows? Maybe it will show up :) Only final words, BRAVI to Roberto Alagna and to Vesselina Kasarova that literally killed it in their roles and made us all cry! And also a huge THANK YOU to our dear camera people (Orin13MSMaPatROB and operara100)who were kind enough to share these videos with the world!

PS: The struggle I just went through to put these videos together in a pretty way was ridiculous!


  1. I'm telling you, matie, reading your post is almost as good as watching the clips! :oD Thanks so much!

    1. Seconded! Well written young 'Bela - and it's so useful to have the video extracts in the right order too :)

    2. Thanks Smorg! That's really sweet of you! :D

  2. looove reading it Isabela! ***love***
    but perhaps you could also post that curtain call here? coz unless you have fb and is part of the group, u won't see that fan page nor curtain call. that is reallly some curtain call!

    I saw this production once with Vesselina and Ramon Vargas, and i can't remember it sparking so much chemistry and connection as this performance. It does require both main singers to bring the story across. And i love your description of their characterizations. With a different singer, suddenly the chemistry is changed, and you're left scratching head why they care about each other at all :-).
    It's also interesting the characterization of Albert, whether the singer chose to for him to be the cruel bastard ( :-D, i don't quite like him!! :-D )

    Actually after that live performance, i didn't think i would listen to Werther again. But after these clips, i've been quite ready to explore. The super high res clips are soooo amazing. you can tell (from the zooming) that one of the filmers was in the standing room section (just 18 rows back!!). My guess is that it must have been filled with Alagna's fans such that the filmer could freely zoom/film/focus without getting warned/tossed out :-D. i tried it couple of times and had to burry my camera under 2 layers of sweater (and covered the lens in the process haha).

    1. ps- oops, i was wrong, it works the curtain call! :-)

    2. Heey! This was definity my favorite characterization of both characters, Vesselina plays Charlotte just the way I like. I absolutely HATE the ice queen versions of Charlotte, she's a passionate woman, look at her music and her lines, the character, after all, is all there.
      I did get in touch with the person who made these videos, and yes, she's a big Alagna fan. And by talking to her I learned that Alagna himself lets them film his performances and totally backs them up if there's a problem.
      Thanks for reading hon! :)

  3. I didn't think the original account could be improved upon .... I was VERY wrong! Thank you so much for all the work you put in.

    1. Thank you! It did take a long time for me to write this you know, because this opera is very draining and dramatic. And I'm very sensitive, I had to like, watch a scene, write about it, stop for say half an hour, do something else and then come back to writting. Writting about this got me really tired yesterday, but it was worth it, I didn't want the edited parts to sound repetitive hahaha Thanks so much for reading, again! :)

    2. a hah, that explained why. i was lurking here for a long time yesterday before updated materials popped up :-D

      I really love the way you did it here. A passionate/knowledgeable account, not just narrating along, but explaining the characters' emotions as we see it happening. I'm a bit curious myself why my first attempt at this live with VK didn't stir much... i think back then i didn't know the music AT ALL, in addition to only knowing roughly the characters... you do need some emotional investment to be able to see the fine details that you love. Also, I think Alagna seemed to clicked with VK's very well which worked out just perfect during their lively improvised actions!

      I also love it that we get to see 2 separate performances (papers vs books :-) ). Having seen VK live in consecutive performances (which you have also :-) ), the feel everyday can be so different depending on how things unfold, and it seems they both have great flexibility to just exchange/take/return emotion/action given by the partner on the fly.. it somehow reminded me of this interview where Gruberova said her partnership with VK is great because VK returns to her the exact emotion she gave in the phrase... i'm not paraphrasing well, but think pendulum, you give a swing, if the partner is completely in phase and return at the right time with matched force, run-away (in every good sense) resonance happens... can you imagine, their emotion could send bridges to collapse!

    3. Thank you so much! I'm so glad you liked it! :) But the thing is, Vesselina and Roberto have a very special kind of chemestry and freedom with each other that makes their performances together supurb! I have no doubt that when you saw it with Ramon Vargas and her it was also good, but what she has with Roberto is much more than just on stage chemestry. It's trust, friendship, years and years of knowing each other and working together and obviously the fact that they already did this particular piece at the Met. But I also think it works because Vesselina and Roberto have many similarities in regards to their acting choices. They are free, and seem to just let the character inside and play with it, and having an exchange with someone who does exactly the same, no wonder it turned out fantastic. :)