This revival of Massenet’s Werther is traditional, well-observed and consistently well cast, with only Juan Diego Flórez a bit disappointing
Royal Opera House, London Until Saturday
Benoît Jacquot’s traditional and well-observed production of Massenet’s Werther, with charming sets by Charles Edwards, returns for its third revival, exceptionally well conducted by Ed Gardner.
His masterly control and pacing of the drama pays tribute to his years at English National Opera and with Glyndebourne on tour. And makes it even more shameful that this is only his second major outing at Covent Garden.
Gardner, if properly treated by the Royal Opera, would have been an ideal successor to Antonio Pappano. However, now he has taken on the principal conductorship of the London Philharmonic from 2021, that opportunity seems to have been thrown away.
Not just their loss, but ours too.
Isabel Leonard, making her debut, is a dignified Charlotte and Juan Diego Flórez as Werther is a bit disappointing. He wants to take on heavier, romantic parts and such roles don’t suit him
This revival is consistently well cast, with only Juan Diego Flórez as Werther a bit disappointing. For years Flórez has been the world’s leading bel canto tenor, specialising in demanding roles written by Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti.
But now, apparently, he wants to take on heavier, more romantic parts, and on this evidence such roles don’t suit him.
IT’S A FACT
Juan Diego Flórez holds his native Peru’s highest decoration: the Knight Grand Cross In The Order Of The Sun Of Peru.
All too often at pivotal moments he was overwhelmed by the orchestra. Furthermore, he lacks the big honeyed tones that singers who specialise in this repertoire need to display.
Isabel Leonard, making her debut, is a dignified Charlotte, and Jacques Imbrailo truly excellent in the thankless role of her priggish and deluded husband, Albert. Charlotte marries him for no better reason than she promised her dying mum she would, thereby occasioning Werther’s mental collapse and ultimate suicide.
Heather Engebretson is a bit shrill as her little sister Sophie but she looks the part. Michael Mofidian and Vincent Ordonneau skilfully offer much- needed comic relief as the Bailli’s (the Mayor’s) drunken friends.
The Bailli himself is sonorously sung by Alastair Miles.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back In Concert
Royal Albert Hall, London Touring until Wednesday
A super evening, reaching high artistic and technological levels. In fact, it’s hard to imagine this being done better. The Albert Hall was packed for the excellent Philharmonia Orchestra, under Dirk Brossé, playing most beautifully John Williams’s inspired score for the Star Wars epic.
The soundtrack and the live orchestra were exceptionally well integrated. The musical score was played with silky sophistication by the Philharmonia, with quality sounds impossible to achieve even with the finest restoration of the original soundtrack.
It was a treat to witness how well these evenings can go when everything is so top-drawer.
From November 1 to 3 the Albert Hall is doing Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, and on December 8, E.T. Well worth considering for a thoroughly pleasurable evening out, transforming a night at the movies into something special.