Metropolitan Opera 2016-17 Preview: Vittorio Grigolo & Isabel Leonard To Light Up ‘Werther’

By David Salazar

Massenet’s masterful “Werther” makes a return to the Met stage after a few years of absence. The opening performance is Thursday, Feb. 16, with subsequent showcases on Feb. 20, 23, 27 and March 4 and 9.

The current production, which was directed by Richard Eyre, debuted back in 2014 with Jonas Kaufmann in his most recent role for the company. Sophie Koch was his Charlotte in a run that was lauded for its dramatic and vocal brilliance.

Now it returns with two star singers that have garnered tremendous acclaim over the years.

The Cast

Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo is singing the title role of the suicidal poet for just the third time in his career. He first took on Werther at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in June of 2014. His run in London last summer won raves for the tenor and was also recorded on video.

His Charlotte will be American singer Isabel Leonard who is coming off of her first ever run of performances of the role in Bologna alongside Juan Diego Flórez. Leonard received strong reviews for her portrayal of the heroine, with one outlet noting that she was the “true surprise of the evening.”

Jean-François Borras will sub in for one performance of the title role on March nine while mezzo-soprano Veronica Simeoni gets a crack at Charlotte on the Met stage on Feb. 23.

Anna Christy sings the full run of Sophie while David Bizic takes on Albert. Maurizio Muraro rounds out the cast as Le Bailli.

Edward Gardner conducts.

The Opera

“Werther” is rife with fascinating melody, Massenet melding one scene into another seamlessly, including a lack of a pause between the final two acts of the opera. The most famous musical numbers are the title roles, with Werther getting four major solos throughout the evening, including the famous “Pourquoi me reveiller.” Charlotte opens act three with the dramatic letter scene.

Famous Recordings

There is an endless array of famous recordings for this opera. For audiences seeking out a visual reference, Jonas Kaufmann’s performance with Sophie Koch in France is likely the best around.

On CD however there is a vast array. Victoria de Los Angeles and Nicolai Gedda’s pairing is likely the most famous ever set to record. Jose Carreras’ interpretation alongside Frederica Von Stade is another gem. Plácido Domingo’s recording with Elena Obraztsova is another that must not be missed.

Other highly recommended recordings include Koch’s recent work with Roland Villazón and Alfredo Kraus’ with Regine Crespin. Kraus also has a fantastic rendition with Tatiana Troyanos.