Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > Werther - Massenet
An Opera by Jules Massenet
Opera in four acts by Jules Massenet with a libretto by Edouard Blau, Paul Milliet, and G. Hartmann. First performance in New York, April 19, 1894, with Mme. Eames and Sigrid Arnoldson and Jean de Reszke.
In the first act the bailiff, Charlottes father, is seen teaching his youngest children to sing a Christmas carol, while Charlotte dresses for a ball. Ready before the carriage arrives, she gives the children their bread and butter as she has done every day since their mother died. She greets Werther, her cousin, who is also invited to the ball, with a kiss. After they have gone, Albert returns. He has been away six months. He wonders whether Charlotte, his betrothed, still cares for him and is reassured as to her fidelity by her younger sister Sophie. When Charlotte and Werther return from the ball Werther declares his love. At that moment the bailiff announces Alberts return. Charlotte tells Werther that she had promised to marry him only to please her mother. Werther replies: "If you keep that promise I shall die."
Act II takes place three months later. Charlotte and Albert are man and wife. Albert knows that Werther loves his wife but trusts him. Charlotte begs Werther not to try to see her again until Christmas day.
In Act III, Charlotte is at home alone. Her thoughts are with Werther and she wonders how she could have sent him away. Suddenly Werther returns and there is a passionate love scene. When Werther has gone Albert enters, and notices his wifes agitation. A servant brings a note from Werther saying that he is about to go on a long journey and asking Albert to lend him his pistols. Charlotte has a horrible presentiment and hastily follows the servant.
In Act IV, Charlotte finds Werther dying in his apartments. He is made happy by her confession that she has loved him from the moment when she first saw him.