Super gutsy performance from Jonas Kaufmann: he was coughing between his arias but he sang every single note, and boy did he sing majestically! Sophie Koch was the best Charlotte I've ever seen. Magnificent Ludovic Tézier and Anne-Catherine Gillet complete the superb cast.
This was the best you can possibly chisel out of this opera. It's impeccably structured, MARVELOUSLY sung and it's almost unbelievable to see that every singer is a perfect fit --both vocally and scenically-- for her/his role. BINGO!
If you looked for the most charismatic singers and actors to incarnate Charlotte and Werther today, that would be Sophie Koch and Jonas Kaufmann.
Last night, on the way back home, I was thinking about the secret of Jonas Kaufmann and while I'd agree that his looks and his intrinsic musicality are his main trumps, I think his magic formula goes beyond that. I believe it has to do with the fact that he is not "new Pavarotti" or "new Domingo", he's not impersonating any of the all-time-best tenors; he is being himself, Jonas Kaufmann, and he delivered last night the most amazing Werther you could ever wish to see or/and listen to. The rumor was correct: he caught a cold and he is sick. During the show, while on stage and not singing, he'd discretely clear his throat and cough. But no sign of it was present in his singing. Gutsy, beautiful... I'm running out of my bag of compliments. :)
NEVER Charlotte looked so genuinely innocent and troubled, thorn between her heart and her duty. Scenically that was incredibly well acted [you don't see often that level of acting in an opera!], and vocally she was in full command of her voice while translating every tiny nuance of Charlotte's troubles in the most delightful sounds which hit you so thoroughly that you could feel your jaw dropping every now and then. Awesome!
If I tell you that the always-fantastic Ludovic Tézier --who was the major attractor of the last year's run of Werther in Paris-- was almost inexistent in this show, you'd maybe get a size of greatness of the Koch/Kaufmann combination. And by that I mean Tézier was no less than a perfect Albert! Anne-Catherine Gillet has a beautiful (if ordinary) voice. She possesses that irresistible innocence and purity, and when it's necessary she can put an extra-power to her high notes. The effect in live is fantastic.
Michel Plasson is one of the good old French conductors. I don't like the complete lack of testosterone in his slow paced Werther, but I can understand the folks who love his interpretation too. I believe there are many excellent and younger French conductors who'd do the job better (by the way Plasson is 77), but that's a topic I'll get back to some other time...
What about the staging? Benoît Jacquot DOES direct the actors and he does it very well, no matter what you think of his first two acts. Yes, those first two acts are sloooow and static: more than a few times I feared the worst ghosts of the horrid opera productions from the 70's and 80's that we can see on DVDs, were haunting Bastille. But Jacquot then adds some extra gestures to the acting part which instantly chase away the ghosts: first time Charlotte meets Werther is a good example of that. So if you decide to see it on Arte TV [but it's certainly MUCH better to see it live at the Bastille Opera], be patient because the 3rd and 4th acts are near-perfect. I won't unveil the details right now. You gotta see that.
A huge triumph for the whole team at the end, except for Jacquot who took some boos too. That's what I call a healthy dose of boos. :)
The intendant Nicolas Joel was sitting a couple of rows behind me and looked visibly scared during the show --> there were so many catastrophic shows since the beginning of his term; this one would have been one-too-much and he knew it. The end must have been a HUGE relief for him.
Here are several pics for you from Yours Truly ;)
Koch and Kaufmann at the end of the show
Anne-Catherine Gillet and Sophie Koch
Jonas Kaufmann and Ludovic Tézier
Jonas Kaufmann and Michel Plasson