Scottish Opera: Werther, Theatre Royal, Glasgow By David Kettle
Saturday 16 February 2013 02:00
WITH an arch-Romantic hero who comes to a sticky end after falling for a woman promised to another, Massenetís 1892 opera Werther is ñ depending on your point of view ñ either one of the great operatic love stories, or a study of somewhat deranged obsession.
Pia Furtadoís new production for Scottish Opera treads an occasionally precarious path between those two points of view. It often aches with big-hearted desire, yet her decision to place Werther as immovable presence observing everything from the wings casts a sinister shadow ñ one thatís continued in Oliver Fenwickís sometimes crepuscular lighting. Thereís some beautifully evocative storytelling choreography, especially during the orchestral interludes, but at other times things can feel strangely static.
Nevertheless, in vocal terms the production excels. American tenor Jonathan Boyd makes a muscular, determined Werther, one far from the introspective dreamer we might expect. His clear, focused voice and sometimes steely tone might seem jarring in the productionís first two acts, but are entirely appropriate as his character becomes increasingly unhinged. Viktoria Vizin is spellbinding as Charlotte, the object of Wertherís affections ñ wide-eyed and oblivious as his desire blossoms, yet wracked with guilt in her moving final scene, a masterpiece of joyless desperation.
But in terms of passion, the real emotion comes from the pit: the Orchestra of Scottish Opera have never sounded so good. Under Francesco Cortiís sure direction, they convey Massenetís turbulent emotions in grand sweeps of surging sound, yet remain ever sensitive to the musicís subtler moods.