Massenet: Werther

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Werther
PERFORMER: Ramón Vargas, Vesselina Kasarova, Christopher Schaldenbrand, Dawn Kotoski; Berlin Boys’ Choir, German SO Berlin/Vladimir Jurowski
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 58224 2
This fine new recording is proof again that you don’t have to cast French operas with French forces to achieve idiomatic results. Indeed, the truly international line-up assembled here for Massenet’s masterpiece would be hard to beat when it comes to stylistic rightness: this is a highly emotional account that never becomes overwrought or wears its heart on its sleeve. The excellent Vladimir Jurowski conducts with passion but delicacy too, emphasising the internal drama of Goethe’s story, on which the opera is based. In the title role, the Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas follows in a distinguished line of Latin interpreters (including Alfredo Kraus and Plácido Domingo); he sings ardently but with easy fluency too, and the voice has body without sounding too heavy. His poetic account of ‘Pourquoi me réveiller’ is remarkable for its legato line. The Bulgarian mezzo Vesselina Kasarova gives one of her best performances as Charlotte, her character vulnerable yet strong just as her tone is dusky yet bright; her ‘Air des Larmes’ is truly tear-laden. Dawn Kotoski’s pretty-sounding Sophie is light and focused, and Christopher Schaldenbrand is an appropriately solid Albert. In sum, a recording that captures the tragic, heartbreaking atmosphere of this opera. John Allison