Goethe, one of the pivotal creators of German literature, became famous in Europe precisely with his novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. Today, he is known as one of the leading authors of preromantic literature, and his creations have also inspired other operatic works, among which, in addition to Werther, the most frequently performed Faust by Charles Gounod. Goethe is also considered one of the beginners of the Sturm and Drang literary movement.
In this pearl of French romantic operas, Massenet created extensive dramatic situations based on a series of finely nuanced moments, intertwined by a keen sense for their amalgamation. The libretto revolves around the love story between the young Werther and Charlotte, the two protagonists, torn between the desire for happiness and the expectations of society, which is also masterfully illustrated by the chronological structure of the work. From summer to winter, from light to dark, and from the sun to the moon, that illuminates Werther's first meeting with Charlotte and his ultimate death in her arms.
Werther – the libretto was originally written in French – was premiered in a German translation at today's Vienna State Opera (then Hofoper) on 16th February 1892. It was not premiered in France until a year later (16th January 1893) because the story, which ends with a suicide, seemed too tragic to Léon Carvalho, the Director of the Opéra-Comique in Paris. Despite the critical acclaim that followed the performance, the work did not achieve success in France until 1903, when it became a part of the repertoire of the Opéra-Comique, then directed by Albert Carré.
Werther was performed for the first time on the Ljubljana stage in the 1908/1909 season, directed by Bogomil Vlček. Even if it was presented only three times during that season, this marvellous piece, created by the famous French composer, helped raise Slovenian opera to the level it reached at the beginning of the last century. In addition to the first, there were six more premieres of Werther in Ljubljana, the last one, signed by the director Marijan Breznik, in the 1878/1979 season.
The audience will enjoy a new premiere of this operatic masterpiece on our stage after 45 years. This time it will be directed by the Cuban director Luis Ernesto Doñas.
Based on the famous literary material, this opera is also suitable for youth performances.
Text: Tamara Šmit, Tatjana Ažman