Sergej Khomov (Werther) | © Hans Jörg Michel
Werther
Jules Massenet
Premiere
Duration: about 2 ½ hours, one interval
Duration: about 2 ½ hours, one interval
ACT ONE

June. The bailiff is practising a Christmas song with his children, and chats with his friends Schmidt und Johann about his daughter Charlotte, who is going to a dance with Werther. On the way to their house, Werther enthuses about the beauties of nature; when he arrives, he watches Charlotte with the younger children and is overwhelmed by her warm-hearted character and natural innocence. They leave for the dance.
Meanwhile Albert, to whom Charlotte is engaged, arrives unexpectedly back from a six months’ business trip and meets Sophie, whom he informs that he is going to marry her sister Charlotte.

Returning from the dance, Charlotte tells Werther about the death of her mother and how she herself now has to be a mother for the younger children. Only half listening, Werther is entranced by her beauty, and makes a declaration of love to her. Charlotte hastily prompts Werther to take his leave; he asks when they can meet again, but before she can reply, her father calls out to her that her fiancé has returned. Stricken, Werther is left to his despair.


ACT TWO

September. Albert and Charlotte talk to each other of the happiness of their marriage. Werther observes them and it torments him to realize that she loves someone else. Albert asks Werther for his friendship and Werther gives to understand that his feelings for Charlotte are no longer a hindrance, but he then realizes that he is deceiving himself; finding himself alone with Charlotte, he bewails his plight and Charlotte thinks it advisable to make him stay away from her at least until Christmas. With first intimations of impending death, Werther hurries away.


ACT THREE

December. On Christmas Eve Charlotte is sitting alone in her salon, reading with increasing emotion the many letters Werther has been sending her. She misses him. Sophie, who is worried for her sister, comes to Charlotte to talk to her about Werther, and Charlotte bursts into tears. Alone again, she is joined by Werther, who soon recognizes that Charlotte now returns his love. She is at a loss to control her conflicting emotions and resolves that they must part for ever. Overcome by desperation, Werther flees with the conviction that his death can be the only solution.

Albert finds Charlotte in despair and senses what has happened. He finds a letter in which Werther asks Albert to lend him his gun. Albert insists that Charlotte must bring it to him.


ACT FOUR

Werther shoots himself. Charlotte is helpless. She confesses her love to him as he dies. Werther can only tell Charlotte where he wishes to be buried before sinking into oblivion.

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