Massenet: Werther

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Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Taking on the title role of Jules Massenet's Werther, Andrea Bocelli makes one of the most ambitious moves of his career. It's a part that relies more on subtle nuances than the passionate outbursts of melody that are this tenor's strong suit, and it's also the first complete opera he's recorded in French rather than Italian. If other singers -- José Carreras, Georges Thill, Roberto Alagna -- have portrayed the sorrowful young Werther with greater authority, Bocelli's fans are still in for a treat hearing him and his costars sing the dreamy melodies of Massenet's masterpiece. Anyone who's new to Werther should start in the middle, with Act 3. Here the passions become ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Taking on the title role of Jules Massenet's Werther, Andrea Bocelli makes one of the most ambitious moves of his career. It's a part that relies more on subtle nuances than the passionate outbursts of melody that are this tenor's strong suit, and it's also the first complete opera he's recorded in French rather than Italian. If other singers -- José Carreras, Georges Thill, Roberto Alagna -- have portrayed the sorrowful young Werther with greater authority, Bocelli's fans are still in for a treat hearing him and his costars sing the dreamy melodies of Massenet's masterpiece. Anyone who's new to Werther should start in the middle, with Act 3. Here the passions become most heated, and Bocelli rises to the dramatic challenge, offering his best singing in the ardent aria "Pourquoi me réveiller" and the following duet with his star-crossed love, Charlotte. Julia Gertseva brings an impressive, dark-hued voice to this role, while the charming soprano Magali Léger provides a breath of fresh air amid the melancholy as Charlotte's cheerful sister, Sophie. Recorded just after a staged run in Bologna in January 2004, this performance succeeds in the small details and in the overall sweep of its drama, for which conductor and French opera expert Yves Abel deserves much credit. The anti-Bocelli contingent will find grounds to criticize his singing here, but he obviously loves the music -- he chose Werther for his U.S. stage debut back in 1999 -- and firmly grasps the hero's vulnerable psychology. And if anyone can accomplish the worthy goal of bringing Massenet to the masses, Bocelli's the man for the job.
All Music Guide - Allen Schrott
This "Werther" is conducted beautifully by Yves Abel, whose discography also includes Renée Fleming's Thaïs and Susan Graham's excellent C'est la vie, c'est l'amour. He elicits a passionate and beautifully haloed performance from the orchestra of Bologna's Teatro Comunale, sprinkled with exquisite soloistic moments and rousing climaxes. Also turning in noteworthy performances are: Magali Léger, whose sunny performance as the optimistic Sophie bears a striking resemblance to a young Natalie Dessay; and Giorgio Giuseppini as the Bailiff, who brings much-needed warmth of both voice and spirit to the production. The package also has informative and approachable liner notes by Arthur Holmberg. Andrea Bocelli's previous opera recordings have exposed a lack of vocal presence and polish on the part of their star: flat delivery, shaky intonation, clipped and often prosaic phrasing, and a lack of expressive range. In this, "Werther" is no exception, and because it is "Werther" those qualities detract more from the overall effect of the production than they have from his previous efforts. "Werther" is, after all, the character that launched the Romantic conception of manhood, in which overt emotionalism became a fashionable quality. We shouldn't love Werther for what he does; in fact, his actions should reveal him to be selfish and somewhat pitiable. We shouldn't even love him for what he feels. But the strength of those feelings, and the completeness of Werther's surrender to them should resonate with our idealism, our dreams, and our yearning to make our deepest inner convictions real without compromise. As realized here by Bocelli, that's a tough ask. There is no variety of sound or expression, let alone any sense that he is oscillating between extremes of joy and despair. Massenet's fluid writing and gorgeous melodies still stir feeling, but they are forced to struggle against the flat, executorial delivery of their protagonist. Bocelli's French sounds phonetically self-conscious, and often not quite right, and his rhythmic cadence is flat footed. This "Werther" is altogether too careful and unchanging to touch off an emotional revolution. As Charlotte, Julia Gertseva displays a hefty, dark-hued voice that has the power to deal with Massenet's often heavy orchestration, but which often lapses into harshness. Her diction is unclear, and at times she seems more concerned with the mechanics of singing than with the dynamics of a scene. It's a capable, but not particularly winning performance that might come off better if she had more of a foil in Bocelli.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/8/2005
  • Label: Decca
  • UPC: 028947565574
  • Catalog Number: 000407802

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Werther, lyric drama in 4 acts - Jules Massenet & Clive Bennett (129:22)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Andrea Bocelli Primary Artist
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Werther "lives"

    I always hesitate to write a Bocelli review, because as a Bocelli fan in every way, I'm afraid not to be taken seriously. I'm no expert in opera, and will never claim to be. However, in this instant, I feel I need to express my joy after listening to this particular project. I was there when Andrea sang the part of Werther for the first time 6 years ago, and again when he sang in Italy last year. Each time I thought he couldn't get any better, and he always surpassed my expectations! I've read that he has a "thin voice." A thin voice? I think critics that write this aren't even listening. They're just parroting their counterparts. If you really listen to this recording, you'll hear the power when it's needed, and the pathos the character calls for. While I think it's the role Bocelli was born to play, it only leaves me more eager for the next one he brings to life!! Truly...through him, they're alive!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    BOCELLI SHINES AS WERTHER

    FIVE STARS....I wish there were more to give! This rendition of Werther is absolutely the finest I have heard. Andrea Bocelli wears this role like a second skin, so convincing is he in his soulful portrayal. In fact, were I to choose a signature role for Bocelli it would be Werther. When he is doing this role he IS the character. I have attended his performances both in Detroit in 1999 and also in Bologna in 2004. Both are wonderful, but, this particular cast as a whole seems to be most suited to their particular characters and the voices work together to advantatge. The orchestra is excellent under the baton of Yves Abel. Gertseva as Charlotte was new to me, and is both beautiful and convincing as actress and singer, and so on, with the cast choices, right down the line. Still, the shining stars go to Bocelli whose command of emotions, voice, and diction make this recording a must have for anyone's collection. One of my favorite operas, I have collected over 20 complete performance CDs of this title, finding something of value in each. I consider Mr Schrott's negative review of Bocelli in this role to be without foundation of fact. You be your own judge. Of course you will have to hear it to know. You will not be disappointed. Admittedly, I am one who hears the magic in Bocelli's voice. This is such a beautiful production. Massenet's masterpiece as well as Bocelli's.

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