Massenet: Werther

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Massenet
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Massenet
WORKS: Werther
PERFORMER: Andrea Bocelli, Julia Gertseva, Natale de Carolis, Giorgio Giuseppini, Magali Leger, Pierre Lefebvre, Armondo Ariostini, Diana Bertini, Vittorio Prato, Bologna Teatro Comunale Chorus and Orchestra
CATALOGUE NO: 475 6557
The name Andrea Bocelli guarantees controversy, so let’s start by saying that this is not too bad a performance. Yves Abel conducts not very distinctively but with a good dramatic sense and plenty of orchestral energy. There’s some decent singing, too: Natale de Carolis’s warm-voiced Albert, slipping effectively into anger and disillusion, Giorgio Giuseppini’s richly robust old Magistrate, and Magali Leger’s Sophie has the right vocal bounce and brightness. Unfortunately her French shows up some others in this Italianate cast, notably the principals. Julia Gertseva has the right sort of mezzo for Charlotte, and plenty of passion, but mushy diction and not much actual characterisation.

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It’s worth remembering thatWerther was influenced by Die Walküre, so its hero’s tormented outbursts demand some steel beneath the lyricism. Bocelli’s literally vibrant voice can generate excitement, but also some rather approximate pitch and phrasing. His careful French degenerates under pressure, and even with all the resources of Decca’s fine recording, big solos like ‘O nature’ and ‘Pourquoi me reveiller’ betray his lack of power. He’s not ludicrously awful, but this simply doesn’t compare with Carreras and von Stade in Colin Davis’s classic recording, or more recently the underrated Ramon Vargas and Vesselina Kasarova for Jurowski. Michael Scott Rohan