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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
What a curious power this piece has, especially when it is so meltingly sung by Victoria de los Angeles.
What a power it has, after all, this old piece with its contrived poignancies of merriment and tragedy, its facile reminiscences, its domesticated heroine and self-absorbed poet-hero. The proof of the power lies quite simply in the experience: you think you are by now impervious to its effects, and then suddenly out comes a melody or a phrase or a forgotten detail of orchestration, and your whole immune system is invaded. With a gulp, as likely as not. This time it attacked not in the early scenes which quite commonly take the emotions as by a charm, but in the scene in Act 3 where the sisters are together—the melody
which enters almost casually as Sophie perceives Charlotte's unhappiness, and then of course the "larmes", always moving but here doubly so as it is meltingly sung by Victoria de los Angeles.
She is very nearly the ideal Charlotte, just a trifle overtaxed by the strenuous lines at the end of that act but otherwise adorable, both in character and in the sheer beauty of sound. Gedda's Werther is often finely sung, and I prefer it to Alfredo Kraus's famous portrayal (Plasson/EMI): there's more sweetness, less self-pity, and something closer than all the other post-war Werthers to a natural French elegance. The secondary roles are all well taken, though Mady Mesple's Sophie is perhaps excessively French in its brightness. About Prétre's conducting some hard things have been said, and it does sometimes run to extremes; even so, there is life and feeling in it, and I find more conviction, attention to detail too, than in Plasson, and more straightforward passion than in Chailly (DG).
In fact the principal weaknesses in the set have to do with recorded sound, which first strikes the ear as somewhat harsh and gritty (though either it or the ear settles down after a while). Balance is not always satisfactory or consistent, and there are some noticeable tape-joins. If you don't let these little things worry you, you will probably enjoy it as I did.
-- Gramophone [5/1992]
Works on This Recording
Werther by Jules Massenet
Nicolai Gedda (Tenor),
Mady Mesplé (Soprano),
Roger Soyer (Bass),
Jean-Christophe Benoit (Baritone),
André Mallabrera (Tenor),
Victoria de los Angeles (Soprano),
Christos Grigoriou (Baritone)
Orchestre de Paris,
ORTF Children's Chorus
Written: 1892; France
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Classic Recording Aging Gracefully October 5, 2013
By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews
"Arkivmusic's composite listing for recordings of Jules Massenet's opera Werther shows over 30 options from which to choose. Not having heard any of the other recordings beyond this version from the late 1960's, I can't make any comparisons. It suffices merely to note that this extraordinary recording must surely rank among the best. Featuring the transcendent singing of Victoria de los Angeles as Charlotte and Nicolai Gedda as Werther, the tragic tale of unfulfilled romantic desire is presented with all of the possible emotional and psychological twists and turns one could hope for. Werther contains no formal choral parts beyond some very brief children's voices, so the cast must carry the entire vocal load. Backed up by the excellent orchestral score performed by the Orchestre de Paris, the entire cast succeeds brilliantly throughout the entire recording. There is only a very slight hint of the recordings' age in EMI's remastering, so listenability is not an issue here. Based on Goethe's novel of Werther, the opera contains a simple plot, easy to follow in the full libretto or in the synoptic summary. In short, this very fine version should be seriously considered by anyone looking for a truly high quality performance of Massenet's masterpiece. Strongly recommended."