As I step into the Royal Opera House’s stylish new café, there is the familiar Covent Garden buzz. It’s the opening night of Werther, and also the start of the new opera season. The talking points are Joyce di Donato’s upcoming title role in Agrippina. She was also in the last 2016 performance of Werther, alongside the flamboyant Italian tenor, Vittoria Grigolo. Would the 2019 Werther, sung by Juan Diego Flórez, match Grigolo’s high octane performance in 2016?
I had been gripped by Grigolo’s ROH debut in Werther, a broadcast of which I saw at the cinema. The camera angles were daring: I remember a close up of Grigolo’s pulsating vocal folds as he hit the high notes.
Werther is all psychological drama. The narrative is bare but doesn’t feel so because of the richness of the music. In parts Jules Massenet, the French composer, shows his love for Wagner, in others, sorrowful and heart-rending music of great delicacy.
Image: Isabel Leonard as Charlotte and Juan Diego Flórez as Werther