Werther in Concert

My local library is really good when it comes to buying opera dvds. I often go there and leaf through the selection and find stuff I never knew I craved – but then there it is. Many I just pass visit after visit and then perhaps one day I decide to pick it up. One such dvd was this:

Werther. Hampson Graham

I first saw it some months ago and left it because the cover is plain ugly and because concert performances on dvd are just one more nail to the coffin of opera as an art form. But then later that day it returned to me. Because – what would the barytone Thomas Hampson be doing in an opera with a tenor hero? And embracing the heroine on the cover?

So when I stumbled upon it again last week I decided to bring it home with me.
It turned out to be musically stunning and acting-wise not bad at all.

The conductor Michel Plasson and I are not the best of friends…not that he knows. But I once witnessed him furiously screaming the text at a poor mezzo-soprano who couldn’t remember her part but who had also just been flown in to rescue the performance from cancellation. Not nice Monsieur P.
But I have to admit that with this Werther he does a remarkable job.

And then what I really wanted to share with you: the best love scene I can think of just now. And here performed by two singers, Thomas Hampson and Susan Graham, who are everything but 20-year-olds but who manage to put all the pain, vulnerability, and love into this encounter and make it one of the most touching scenes I have seen.

Have a look and try to ignore the impossible filming:

If you want to see what it all ends with then look here for Werther’s death.

The cast also includes delectable singers as Stéphane Degout as Albert and Sandrine Piau as Sophie.

And the barytone thing? It turns out Massenet revised his opera and turned Werther into a barytone in order to make him more brooding. Not sure I think that is the right thing to do – but Thomas Hampson is always welcome to do any of my favourite opera heroes!



May 11, 2007. In the library, Music, Opera, YouTube.


  1. confidentialattachees replied:

    Oh my God, that was brilliant! *fans self* Thank you so much for sharing, Anna!

    I definitely don’t think Werther should be a baritone – although brooding I think he’s a much too ethereal and youthful character to be portrayed by such a dark voice: Werther really does have a kind of… *highpitched* personality and thus I tended to miss his high notes when watching this version of the love scene.

    But Thomas Hampson does a brilliant job portraying him, and I agree that one can never get too much of him and his voice! I talked on the phone with Anna this morning who claimed that his interacting with Susan Graham was, and I quote, “hot”, and seeing this clip now, I totally agree. I especially love their acting right after the climaxic “Je t’aime!” (where the characters usually smooch): they look positively post-orgasmically sheepish and flustered!

    I wonder if there’s a strong tradition for trying out this second draft of Massenets? I’d love to see a full staging with a baritone in the title part.


  2. confidentialattachees replied:

    😀 You’re so right about the post-orgasmic sheepishness. Totally! And it just makes it even more hilarious that they hardly touch each other.
    I don’t think you are likely to meet this barytone version in an opera house near you. It is presented as quite rare on this recording.

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