Werther is one of my favourite operas so I'm thrilled DG have seen fit to release this very special live set, recorded at Covent Garden last May. If you love this work - or are unfamiliar with it and looking to experience it for the first time - I'd urge you to invest in this version for two reasons.
Firstly, Massenet's intricately constructed and lushly orchestrated score is magnificently realised by Antonio Pappano and the orchestra of the Royal Opera House. For all its swirling romanticism, it's a tautly structured piece, with neither a wasted word nor a wasted note, and Pappano paces it all to perfection, handling the dramatic ebb and flow, the psychological twists and turns, to spellbinding effect.
Secondly, Villazon's performance is simply outstanding - quite possibly the finest singing I have ever heard from him. Vocally and temperamentally, the role fits him like a glove, playing to all his strengths: beauty of tone; an intensity that simmers dangerously and then erupts, but without ever compromising the Gallic elegance of the vocal line; and a seemingly limitless capacity for expressivity. With masterfully controlled dynamics and kaleidoscopic changes of tone, he colours and shapes not just the big arias, but also the tiniest phrases, delivering both with the naturalness of speech.
Sophie Koch sings with ravishing warmth and fullness of tone as Charlotte, a perfect foil to the complexity of Villazon's charismatic, tormented poet as he gradually wears down her defences with his ruthlessly seductive, self-absorbed persistence.