Concert Review: The Israeli Opera

Massenet: Werther Opera House, Tel Aviv November 12

A theater stage (photo credit: MOHAMMAD JANGDA/FLICKR)
A theater stage
One wonders whether Goethe, whose novel The Sufferings of the Young Werther was at the peak of German Classical literature and at a turning point toward Romanticism, would have been happy with Massenet’s tear-jerking sentimental opera Werther.
Director Paul Emile Fourny and designer Benoit Dugardyn’s framed stage was original, no doubt, but contributed only little to the understanding of the plot, and even tended to be confusing. Secondary actors milling around the stage were superfluous and diverted attention from the main characters. Werther’s dying scene was too theatrical to be convincing, with an inappropriate pardonne moi (“Forgive me”) and with a fortissimo whose force did not suit a man on his deathbed.
In the title role, Korean tenor Ho-Yoon Chung was an intense, impassioned lover. His singing about death already in Act 2 did not leave him much choice toward his end.
As Charlotte, Maya Lahyani made one understand why Werther fell in love with her lovely, high-pitched, soft mezzo-soprano. Their duet in Act 3 was a highlight of the performance. In the role of Albert, Oded Reich’s sonorous baritone sounded authoritative and appropriately indignant.
Conducted by Alan Guingal, the Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion provided the instrumental part expertly and dramatically, especially in Act 4 when the music became less commonplace.
This performance proved how difficult it is to produce a satisfying production of a second-rate opera that, not unjustifiably, is only seldom performed.