Argentina Massenet, Werther: Soloists, Orchestra and Children’s Chorus of Teatro Argentino. Conductor:Benjamin Pionnier, Teatro Argentino, La Plata. 27.7.2012. (JSJ)
Werther: Andeka Gorrotxategi / Gustavo López Manzitti
Charlotte: Guadalupe Barrientos / Cecilia Díaz
Sophie: Oriana Favaro / María Victoria Gaeta
Albert: Gustavo Gibert / Sebastián Sorarrain
Le Bailli: Luis Gaeta / Walter Schwarz
Schmidt: Maximiliano Agatiello / Darío Leoncini
Johann: Federico De Michelis
Brühlmann: Mauricio Thibaud / Fernando Nuñez
Katharina: Constanza Poj
Director: Paul-Émile Fourny
Assistant Director: Ángela Boveri
Sets: Benoit Dougardyn
Costumes: Stella Maris Müller
Lighting: Horacio Efron
Children’s chorus: Mónica Dagorret
Trust a director to put a new spin on an apparently familiar work… – in this case Massenet’s Werther which Belgian director Paul-Émile Fourny sets as a series of images that are experienced by a Werther in a state of delirium. It is a paradigm of romanticism, we are told in the program notes – it is stylistically coherent with characters who are overcome by their emotions and there is identification with nature, which is reflected and multiplied with each change of mood…
The basic set is a giant picture frame in which the “images” are observed from the outside, with static figures that come to life as the “dream” unfolds. And when Werther finally enters the frame it is the sign that there has been a definitive rupture with reality in his mind, according to the program notes.
That Werther is a poet makes this concept not so far-fetched, even though the original book by Goethe on which the libretto is based was partly autobiographical and factual. However, one is left wondering at the boundaries of this delirium, and what it means when Charlotte is outside the frame? One of the consequences too is that frequently Werther is in a separate “space” from the other cast, and for example in the third act instead of a “conversation” with Charlotte the two came across somewhat woodenly as two disconnected figures introspecting. This third act, which is set in Albert’s house, also contained the gravest licence, with the replacement of a harpsichord with a crib – the more bizarre considering that at that point Charlotte would have been unlikely to be much more than half way into a pregnancy!
So much for the concept, what about the cast? Basque tenor Andeka Gorrotxategi made for a youthful Werther with much vocal colour, alongside an equally splendid Guadalupe Barrientos in what is perhaps one of her most significant roles to date as Charlotte. Oriana Favaro was well suited to the role of the young Sophie, while Gustavo Gibert was a reserved Albert and Luis Gaeta a polished Le Bailli.
Conductor Benjamin Pionnier elicited expressive and consistent tone from the Argentino orchestra and the children’s chorus performed well. Just the diction was off and rarely was the language apparent as French.
Jonathan Spencer Jones