15 Nov 2014 (Sat) 6:30 ‑ 9:45pm (3 hours 15 minutes)
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Jonas Kaufmann sings the title role of Massenet’s sublime adaptation of Goethe’s revolutionary romance for the first time at the Met. The new production is directed and designed by Richard Eyre and Rob Howell, the same team that created the Met’s hit staging of Carmen. Sophie Koch, Kaufmann’s recent partner in Werther in Paris and Vienna, sings Charlotte, and rising young conductor Alain Altinoglu conducts.

Act I Wetzlar, Germany, the 1890s. On a summer evening, the widowed Bailiff is practicing a Christmas carol with his young children. Since the death of his wife, his eldest daughter, Charlotte, has been looking after the family. Two of his friends stop by, discussing the young poet Werther, who is to escort Charlotte to a ball that evening, and asking about Charlotte’s absent fiancé, Albert. Werther appears, reflecting on the beauty of nature. He watches as Charlotte gives the children their supper and then leaves them in the care of Sophie, her 15-year-old sister. Deeply touched by the idyllic scene, he departs with Charlotte. The Bailliff sets off to join his friends and Sophie remains alone. She is surprised by the arrival of Albert, who has returned early from a long journey. They talk happily of his impending marriage to Charlotte and go into the house. In the moonlight, Charlotte and Werther return from the ball. He praises her beauty and devotion to her family; she recalls the memory of her mother. Feeling that his affections are being returned and inspired by the romantic mood, Werther passionately declares his love. At that moment, the Bailiff calls out from the house that Albert is back. The spell is broken. Charlotte admits that he is the man she promised her dying mother to marry. Werther is devastated.

Act II It is September and Charlotte and Albert have been married for three months. Werther has maintained a friendship with them but is tormented by the idea that Charlotte belongs to another. On a Sunday of celebration at the village church, he meets Albert, who explains that he understands the cause of Werther’s distress, having met his wife when she was still free. Werther assures him that he only feels friendship for them both. But when Charlotte appears he cannot prevent himself from speaking of his love. She reminds him of her duties as a wife and asks that he leave town and not return until Christmas. Werther gives in to his despair, musing on the idea of suicide. When Sophie appears to invite him to dance, he brusquely tells her that he is departing forever and rushes off. Albert realizes that Werther is still in love with Charlotte.


Act III At home on Christmas Eve, Charlotte re-reads Werther’s letters, admitting to herself that she still loves him. Suddenly Werther appears. Together they evoke tender memories of playing the piano and reading the works of Ossian, leading Werther to reflect on the tragedy of love. Charlotte momentarily loses her composure and falls into his arms, then runs from the room, telling him they will never meet again. Left without hope, Werther leaves. Albert returns and a servant hands him a note from Werther: he is going on a journey and asks to borrow Albert’s pistols. Albert coldly orders his wife to hand them over. Charlotte, realizing the meaning of Werther’s words, rushes off to save him.

Act IV Charlotte finds Werther mortally wounded in his study. He asks her not to call for help, happy to finally be united with her. She admits that she has always loved him. Werther dies in her arms as the children’s Christmas carol is heard from outside.
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