Werther - Further information
Edouard Blau, Paul Milliet, Georges Hartmann after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
World première on February 16, 1892 in Vienna, Hofoper
In a smoke-filled cellar in Wetzlar – according to the legend he himself circulated – Jules Massenet is said to have discovered his enthusiasm for Goethe’s novel about Werther: “these stirring scenes, these captivating pictures – what a lot could be done with them!” Goethe’s text was, of course, only a source of inspiration for the librettists, who adapted the characters, motifs and individual scenes from the novel to fit the requirements of an opera libretto and altered them accordingly. The story of the drame lyrique “Werther” concentrates completely on the characters of Charlotte and Werther, whose passions and conflicts, culminating in Werther’s suicide, were developed and unfolded by Massenet in four grand duet scenes, absolutely in accordance with the operatic conventions of his time. Léon Carvalho, the director of the Opéra Comique in Paris, for whom Massenet played his work when it was completed in 1887, was, however, disappointed at the result and when the Opéra Comique then burned down the following night, “Werther” disappeared in Massenet’s drawer without having been produced. The tenor Ernest van Dyck was not happy about this and his search for people with an interest in “Werther” was finally crowned with success at the Viennese court opera, where the piece was first performed in 1892 in a German translation by Max Kalbeck and with van Dyck singing the tital role. Barely a year later the premiere at the Opéra Comique marked the beginning of Werther’s success in Paris. The Munich public, on the other hand, had to wait until 1977 no less for its first chance to hear “Werther“, which is now followed by a second chance to do so.
© Bavarian State Opera