Jules Massanet's lyrical opera is transformed into a superb film production by Petr Weigl, shot on location in Prague, with music conducted by Libor Pesek. First produced by the Vienna Opera in February 1892, "Werther" rap... more »idly confirmed Massanet's position on the French opera scene and achieved enormous popularity outside France, notably in Italy, America and England. The tragic story tells of Werther's intense passion for Charlotte, who has married his best friend, Albert, fulfilling a pledge to her now deceased mother. But Werther's letters of love bring Charlotte to his side when he promises to take his own life.« less
Robert G. VanStryland | Denton, TX USA | 08/07/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The singing of the two principles (especially Fassbaender) is good and the film looks pretty. But the director compresses the performance to feature film length by deleting every scene that does not involve the two principal singers. This is not a performance of "Werther"; it is a disk of highlights."
The film puts you in the period-appropriate mood
Noam Eitan | Brooklyn, NY United States | 02/18/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"People who have issues with opera-films, where a film is superimposed on a recording will find them here (from lip-synching to the issue of "realism"). I feel this film does justice to this work. The film can only improve so much on the opera itself, and it's no news that "French opera had a bad century". There is little action in this opera, the heroes are trapped in a passive existence. It's mainly about a mood, and as such it is boring to watch on stage. The film brings out the melancholic-yearning-pining-wasting-away-with-grief state of mind of its protagonists. The outdoor shots in Prague are very beautiful and help to whisk the viewer away to a different era, very slow in pace and full of pathos. Dvorsky's and Fassbaender's French diction is good. Dvorsky has the perfect voice for the role. He puts to shame all post-war rivals in his big act III aria, and stacks up nicely even with Gigli. His top is free, the voice is full bodied and projects the drama; he maintains a sensual quality worthy of Di Stefano. I never noticed how beautiful Fassbaender's mezzo is; she sings very intelligently, giving a character to what is a rather limited role. There isn't a weak link in the Czech cast, and the conductor Libor Pesek paces the work with the right balance between the lyric and the dramatic. Audio quality is excellent, the video quality is better than VHS but isn't the best (it's not as good as the Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk film, that was shot 7 years later). Overall, this is a good way to access this opera, which otherwise could have been delegated to the status of a dead relic of a genre that went permanently out of fashion as soon as Puccini's sun rose."
Not Quite Massenet's "Werther"
Craig F. Ash | 09/30/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The singers are splendid and the chosen settings are fine, but at least one-sixth of the opera is missing. The focus on the lovers is understandable in giving viewers the most memorable musical moments in the opera, but it violates the dramatic balance of the original opera. The love of Charlotte and Werher needs to be seen in the context of a small-city milieu (Wetzlar, Germany) where people drink, play cards, and celebrate 50th wedding anniversaries. We are shown the church and the townsfolk going and coming from the service, but we don't see the old pastor and wife who are being feted for their years of marriage. That's an important foil to the disfunctional marriage of Charlotte and Albert and to the cause of that marriage: Charlotte's promise to her dying mother to marry Albert. It's also a foil to the foolish passion of Werther and the trouble that he causes for Charlotte and Albert. In addition, the balance of the Christmas carol near the beginning of Act I (a rehearsal in June) with the performance a year and a half later when Werther lies dying of a bullet in his gut is lost because the children don't have their June rehearsal. No wonder that some of these reviewers think the opera slow-moving. Paradoxically, the opera would seem more lively if more lively scenes were included, even if the opera ran its full length.
It must also be said that, contrary to the unhistoric view of one reviewer, Massenet's opera was not a last gasp of romantic opera before Puccini, but a forward step away from the traditional 5-act French opera with its "de rigeur" ballet and 3-4 hour length. Massenet is looking forward to "Boheme" and "Butterfly," not back to "Faust" and "Le Prophete," for example. Nonetheless, I love what is here in the Weigl film and see it in light of my knowledge of the rest of the opera.
(Secondary complaints: (1) The costumes are 19th century, but the action is 18th century. (2) Werther fails to wear the costume specified by Goethe: blue jacket and yellow-buff trousers. That costume became favored by young would-be Werthers after the 1774 publication of the novel.)"
Miro Zaujec | Slovakia | 11/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is one reason why I have to rate 5 stars - the Peter Dvorsky as Werther. In my opinion he was the best Werther ever. Werther is a role of great passion and so Peter is. He is glorious voice of great power, in spite of he nothing lost of his emotianl feelings, wonderful colours and exactly phrasing. Absolutely inimitable is his wonderful shining color of his voice, which makes him perfect. Every time I watch this video I am amazed of him. Every time I hear him I feel physicaly need of standing ovations.. I think the main hero of the opera Werther is the character of Werther. Therefore I don't understand why on the title of DVD is noted only Brigite Fasbaender (even though she is also very good). It's a pity that Peter Dvorsky is not well known wolrldwide. In the past he made a wonderful creations of Rodolfo, Nemorino, Faust (in which I consider him one of the best ever as well) , but nobody knows him. I still have this recording on VHS , but now I am going to buy the DVD."
Another great Weigl production
Archie | Ottawa ON Canada | 08/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is little I can add to the review by Noam Eitan regarding the artistic merits of this production. I have been an unabashed fan of Petr Weigl ever since I obtained his productions of "Eugene Onegin", "The Turn of the Screw", "A Village Romeo and Juliet" in VHS format (all, alas, delisted).Cinematic interpretations of operas are, I believe, another artistic approach to these works. Even the live performance recordings come close to this freedom with elaborate sets and camera play. Admittedly Weigl tends to abridge and perhaps offends the purists, but he does end up with a very tight production. (After all, even in live productions, cuts are often made -- sometimes for no greater reason than to avoid paying overtime.) Opera is theatre and Weigl brings it all to life. His actors all look the part, can really act, and do more than lip-synch -- they sing on the set, although their voices are not used. Most importantly, he has a great sense of setting, costumes, and camera angles.However, in this production of Werther, he uses Dvorsky and Fassbaender visually as well as vocally, and very marvellous they both are."