In three Acts by J. MASSENET.
Text from GOETHE by BLAU, MILLIET and HARTMANN.
German Translation by MAX KALBECK.
The subject of this opera is Goethe's famous novel of the same name.
Though the text is not to be compared with that of the novel, the
music to which Massenet has set it is so marvellously adapted to its
lyric and idyllic qualities, that one is inclined to forget its
deficiencies while listening to the melodious strains.
The scene is laid in Wetzlar in the year 1772.
The first Act takes place in the house of Lotte's father, who is a
bailiff in his native city. He has assembled his younger children to
teach them a new Christmas song. While they are practising two friends
of the bailiff enter and invite him to take supper with them at the
neighbouring inn, he declines however and sits down in his arm chair,
while the smaller children climbing on to his knees begin their
interrupted song once more. During this pretty scene Werther
approaches. He sees Lotte coming out of the house, becomingly attired
for a country-ball. She is duly admired by her father and the
children. Then she acquits herself most charmingly of her household
duties by distributing bread to the children. Werther meanwhile is
cordially welcomed by her father.--Other visitors come in and Lotte
goes to attend the ball, escorted by Werther.
Sophia the second daughter persuades her father to join his friends at
the inn and promises to look after the children.--
He is hardly gone, when Albert, Lotte's affianced husband, who has been
on a journey returns.
On hearing that Lotte is not at home, he leaves the house again.--When
night comes on Lotte returns with Werther. The latter is deeply
in love with her, and she listens to his sweet words like one in a
dream, but when her father informs her that Albert has returned she
comes to her senses. In answer to Werther's questions she tells him,
that she promised her dying mother to wed Albert, which confession
leaves Werther a prey to gloom and despair.
The second Act takes place in the autumn of the same year. Lotte is
married to Albert. She has conquered her sentimental fancy for Werther
and is sitting quietly with her husband, enjoying a peaceful Sabbath
day, and the celebration of the village clergyman's golden wedding.
Werther is a jealous witness of her happiness; but when Albert welcomes
him as a friend, he cannot but accept his overtures.--
Sophia enters with a large bouquet for the clergyman, she is in love
with Werther, but the unhappy young man has eyes for her sister only,
who receives him coldly and bids him leave the village.
On seeing Werther so cast-down, Lotte repents of her harshness and
invites him to celebrate Christmas with her and her husband. But
Werther refuses to be consoled and hurries away notwithstanding
Sophia's entreaties, vowing never to return.
The third Act takes place in Lotte's drawing-room. She is sitting
alone in deep thought. Werther's frequent and passionnate letters have
reawakened her dormant love for him and her sister, coming in
laden with Christmas parcels, finds her in tears. Unable to console
Lotte, Sophia takes her leave after inviting her to spend Christmas Eve
at her old home.--
Hardly has she gone when Werther appears. Unable to keep away from
Lotte any longer he reminds her of her invitation for Christmas, and
seeing his letters spread out on the table he guesses that Lotte
returns his love.--An impassioned love-scene follows.--Half unconscious
Lotte sinks into his arms, but the first kiss of her lover brings her
to herself. Tearing herself from his embrace she flees into her room
and bolts the door. After vain remonstrations Werther rushes out
Albert returning home finds no one in and calls Lotte. She appears
pale and distressed, and her husband perceives that something is wrong.
Before she can reply to his questions a servant brings in a note from
Werther, asking Albert for his pistol. The husband forces his unhappy
wife to hand the weapon to the servant herself. As soon as Albert has
gone Lotte seizes her hat and cloak and hastens out to prevent the
impending calamity. Alas! she comes too late.--The last scene shows
Werther's room, which is dimly lighted by the moon. The
Christmas-bells are tolling when Lotte enters, calling her lover by
name.--She discovers him lying on the floor mortally wounded.--Now that
he is lost to her for ever she pours out all her love and for a brief
space calls him back to life and sweetens his last moments by a
first kiss. He expires in her arms while from the opposite house the
children's voices are heard singing their Christmas song.
Next: The Departure