Opera Scotland

Werther

Werther in Scotland

Posted 17 Feb 2013

The first Scottish performance of Werther was given by Scottish Opera in 1983.  Conducted by the late Roderick Brydon, the staging showed off favourite performers in Cynthia Buchan and Dennis O'Neill as Charlotte and Werther.  Bill McCue added another fine cameo role as Le Bailli, with Deborah Rees as Sophie and Alan Watt as Albert.

The production received its only revival three years later, this time in English. The cast was headed by John Treleaven, nowadays a leading Wagnerian, in the title role.  Other parts were played by Rachel Gettler (Charlotte),  Rosa Mannion (Sophie), Bill McCue again as their father and Robert Dean as Albert.  The revival was under the direction of the young Keith Warner in his company debut.

Why had it taken so long to reach Scotland?  Partly because French opera (other than Faust and Carmen) has always been less popular than Italian or German; partly because after Massenet's death in 1912 his operas were unfashionable everywhere.  The exception was Manon, which appeared here shortly after its composition in 1885, and has re-appeared  from time to time (most recently in Scottish Opera's staging of 2009).  Other Massenet works have appeared in Scotland.  The short melodrama La Navarraise was brought here from Covent Garden in 1894 by Sir Augustus Harris, as a companion piece to Gluck's Orfeo.   Le cid and Hérodiade have both been performed by Edinburgh Grand Opera, while Thäis recently appeared in concert form in the Usher Hall, the first time a Massenet opera had been performed during the Edinburgh International Festival since 1962, when the Belgrade Opera brought Don Quichotte.

Werther is seen as Massenet's second most popular opera, though until recently it was rarely performed outside France. It featured in the repertoire of the Beecham Opera Company in 1910 and an early Glyndebourne tour, but neither of them made it to Scotland.  The most notable staging down south was English National Opera's in 1977, directed by John Copley, conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, and with a cast led by Janet Baker and John Brecknock.

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