Recorded fifteen years ago in 1998, this performance captures the
Alagna-Georghiu partnership at its freshest intensity. The subject
of the opera invites such responses, and with Pappano's eager conducting
and a strong cast of singers it is hard to imagine a more dramatic
rendition of an opera which many view as its composer's masterpiece.
It is worth noting that when Alagna made his debut recital disc, he
chose to include 'Pourquoi me reveiller?' from Werther, but
even that impressive recording did not match what is found here. The
role is perfect for Alagna, whose tone is beautiful and warm, while
at the same time reflecting the character's deep melancholy. In this
he is well supported by Thomas Hampson's distinguished rendition of
the role of Albert.
The two leading women are splendid too. Massenet intended Charlotte
to be a mezzo soprano, so Angela Georghiu is often heard singing towards
the bottom of her range. She does so successfully, and her character
is nicely vocally contrasted with Patricia Petibon's lighter Sophie,
whose role could have been written for her.
Werther is an opera that has been well served in terms of recordings,
but this new version conducted by Pappano is a leading contender and
sounds better than ever in this re-mastering.
The recommended alternative recordings are those from Pappano (again)
with the Royal Opera, Rolando Villazon and Sophie Koch (DG 477 9340)
and from Sir Colin Davis with the Royal Opera (again), José
Carreras and Frederica von Stade (Decca 478 3434), the latter at bargain
price. Both are highly attractive, and both score over the EMI reissue
for the simple reason that the documentation includes a synopsis of
the plot. Inexplicably EMI provides only a (very fine) scholarly essay
by Rodney Miles, but with no libretto included in the package it is
impossible for the listener to match what he or she hears with the