Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Opera in four acts
Werther George Thill
Charlotte Ninon Vallin
Sophie Germaine Féraldy
Albert Marcel Rocque
Plus Georges Thill singing arias from other Massenet operas: Le Cid;
Hérodiade; Manon and Sapho.
Children's Chorus of the Cantoria
Paris Opera Chorus and Orchestra
conducted by Elie Cohen
(recorded in January 1931)
(Historical) 2 CDs
Two releases of Werther in one year - riches indeed! I recommend that readers
read this review together with my review
of the new Pappano EMI recording of Massenet's opera, with Alagna and Gheorghiu
(EMI 5 56820 2) for the consensus is that Pappano's reading is the best since
this historic recording.
Massenet's passion for melody infused with tenderness and sensuality lifts
this rather morbid tale of inhibition and thwarted passion. Werther the obsessive
artist who cannot forget the woman he loves and whose continually thwarted
passion ultimately destroys him; and Charlotte whose misplaced loyalty makes
her stick with an earnest yet dull fiancée, Albert instead of following
her heart. An error of judgement that leads to tragedy.
This is a classic reading. Conductor Elie Cohen, his choir, orchestra (utilising
wooden flutes and gut strings) and soloists are all steeped in the French
style and the performance is smooth and perfectly balanced; its ardour and
excitement growing naturally and organically.
Tenor Georges Thill strikes a perfect balance between heroism and an angry,
petulant or pleading manner so that his Werther always appears believable
and retains our sympathy. No small feat this for one can so easily become
impatient with this less than attractive character. He is perfectly matched
by Ninon Vallin as the equally weak and vacillating Charlotte. Thoughtfully,
she understates most of her recitatives, and she keeps her tone warm and
poised thus maintaining credibility for her character. Furthermore, her timbre
is most beautiful and full; and her singing natural.
I was very taken with Germaine Féraldy's Sophie, girlish and warm-hearted;
and Marcel Roque impresses as a stiff yet understanding Albert.
At the Naxos price this set makes a perfect comparator to the new EMI recording
and furthermore there is a substantial 25-minute-or-so bonus of more Massenet
arias sung with equal fervour by Thill.