Opera Scotland

Werther 2013Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Werther

When Scottish Opera have only let us hear two from Massenet's varied output of operas in the past fifty years, it may seem churlish to complain when their third staging was a return to the first piece. But that first attempt at Werther was thirty years in the past and long since consigned to history. It is not an easy piece to bring off, but can be wonderfully effective in the right hands. One point in its favour, for a naturally economical company, is perhaps the absence of any need to employ a chorus.

Of the musical aspects of this production there was little to complain about. The fiirst asset was the American tenor Jonathan Boyd in the title role - young and slender looking, a tireless singer, with clearly enunciated and excellent French, he rightly dominated - never off the stage, always observing, perhaps imagining events, even when he was far away. There were odd moments when his lovely, lyrical voice was covered by the orchestra, but better that than a beefy tenor voice that lacks the subtleties required elsewhere. After all, Alfredo Kraus, the best Werther of the last half century, was a bel canto specialist who never forced his voice.

Viktoria Vizin's Charlotte was not consistently on this level, though she rose effectively to the drama of the third act and gave a generally satisfying performance. Anna Devin was quite outstanding as Sophie, almost a tragic figure in this interpretation. Roland Wood was also effective as Albert. The small roles and the squad of children all made a positive impression.

Francesco Corti drew a fierily dramatic account of the score from the orchestra, bringing out little hints of Wagner, with occasional foretastes of Puccini (fascinating similarities to the orchestration of Tosca on occasions). The beautifully played saxophone added a lugubrious colour to everything in the second half. Altogether this was one of the best things Corti has done during his years with the company.

Pia Furtado'e staging was generally effective. Schmidt, Johann and the children seemed more present than usual. The design was monochromatic, with a bleak structure, almost a factory, representing the Bailli's family home, and a small number of props, including a large doll's house which could have been left over from Hansel and Gretel. Werther was changed from poet to artist, which allowed for much tinkering with easels and other equipment, without particularly adding much. His big number in the third act was still based on Ossian rather than the Glasgow Boys, and wonderful it sounded, too.

All in all, this was a highly positive event, showing that, in tandem with the recent Manon, Scottish Opera could justify doing more Massenet. Unfortunately, the short run, seven performances crammed into a fortnight, prevented much word of mouth marketing. The audience on 28 February was very enthusiastic, but the theatre was far from full, which is a great shame.

Given that the old staging played in all four opera houses within Scotland, it does seem a pity that this version should not be seen outside the central belt.

Performance Cast

Le Bailli a magistrate

Jonathan Best

Sophie the magistrate's second daughter

Anna Devin

Schmidt a neighbour

Harry Nicoll

Johann a neighbour

Jonathan May

Werther a young poet

Jonathan Boyd

Charlotte the magistrate's eldest child

Viktoria Vizin


Rónan Busfield


Hazel McBain

Albert engaged to Charlotte

Roland Wood

Performance DatesWerther 2013

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

15 Feb, 19.15 17 Feb, 16.00 20 Feb, 19.15 23 Feb, 19.15

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

26 Feb, 19.15 28 Feb, 19.15 2 Mar, 19.15

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