“It seems to me pointless to do an opera as passionate as Werther and not try and reach out and touch the audience.” —Richard Eyre
Well, Richard Eyre, I guess I took you too literally when I went back to see Werther a second time on Saturday. Despite making it way easier to accomplish by getting a much closer seat, there was no reaching. There was no touching!
However, I can tell you that if you’re in Box 30 Seat 3 of the Grand Tier, that framing device leaves you with a view of Werther’s feet for the start of the last scene. Frankly, Jonas Kaufmann has more talent in those feet than the rest of us dream of, but I happen to be a tremendous admirer of his facial talent, which is no more deeply affecting that when his character is in emotional agony. That, and I was worried he might have lost his untied cravat, which I’d grown quite fond of.
Having now seen the Met’s Werther twice, my takeaway is that, well, of course Jonas Kaufmann can sing like you read about, and the production was gorgeous. I’d seen his Tosca and his Faust, and over-listened to countless of his recordings.* But his acting in this was just staggeringly real. This is no small feat in a role that is inherently off the well-balanced emotional chain. But Jonas Kaufmann (my heeero) did it.
*In the interest of full disclosure, there aren’t all that many recordings, so they may, in fact, be countable.
And another thing: I think Gabriel Yared kind of borrowed the chord progression you hear at the beginning of the above video for The English Patient. It’s right here, at about 55 seconds in. That’s okay. My friend, CR, swears she heard Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay in Act IV of Werther.