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33
4.2 out of 5 stars
Massenet's Werther (Jonas Kaufmann, Sophie Koch) [DVD] [2010] [NTSC]
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 2010
I love all (well, most) operas, French operas in particular, and Massenet is one of my favourite composers. I have lots of CDs, and several DVDs of his operas. Among the latter, two give me particular pleasure. There's 'Manon' from Barcelona, with Dessay and Villazon, lovely production which I remember from ENO years ago. Now there's this 'Werther' from Paris. The title role has to be performed by a tenor with almost Wagnerian resources, and really should convince us in his appearance and acting that he IS the passionate, almost neurotic young dreamer of the libretto. On CD this latter requirement can be forgotten, but on stage, no. Here Jonas Kaufmann really scores, being young-looking (he's 40),utterly Romantic, in the literary sense, and with a voice capable of fully realising Massenet's intentions for the role. In addition, his French is pretty good, and he acts the part without recourse to sobs, undue gesture or vocal distortion. Truly the werther of one's dreams.

Sophie Koch also convinces as Charlotte, though in close-up her grimaces are sometimes off-putting. Being French,despite her Germanic surname,she articulates the text meaningfully, and always sings with accuracy and feeling for the music; this is a distinguishes performance. I was happy to find Ludovic Tezier as Albert, he's one of the best French singers today. The others are fine, though in close-up, Sophie looks older than Charlotte.

Any grumbles? Only minor ones. All the men except Werther wear knee-breeches, but Werther has anticipated the 1798 Revolution's influence and sports trousers - more Byronic, I suppose. The big annoyance is the producer's habit of showing the singers in the wings as they prepare to enter, or after their exit. Not only does this spoil some of the theatrical surprises, but there are jarring moments such as Kaufmann's grin and 'thumbs-up' just before his first, melancholy entrance. But just grit your teeth through these clever-dick moments, and enjoy this lovely performance in a conventional, i.e. sensible production.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2013
I seem to be adding to other comments here, but I had to put in my couple of penceworth. I was so looking forward to seeing this. I'm a big Massenet fan, and for me, Jonas Kaufmann is currently the best tenor around (apart from being astonishingly good-looking - in operatic terms at least). The production looked promising too, no crass updating or 're-imagining'.
Sadly, the whole thing is utterly spoilt by the decision to make the DVD more 'interesting' by whizzing the camera all over the place. I cannot begin to understand what the reason for this might be, unless it is fear of boring the viewer. TV directors seem to be in mortal fear of their audience's attention wandering, but not everyone has the attention-span of a goldfish, especially, I would think, an opera audience. The idea, surely, is to see what is going on on the stage, and get caught up in the 'world of the opera'. I want to see all of the opera as a performance on stage, not shots of the conductor or the orchestra (this slightly marred the otherwise excellent DVD of Turn of the Screw from Schwetzinger). Benoit Jacquot, or whoever was responsible for directing the DVD, not only gives us conductor and orchestra, but backstage shots of the cast out of character and disturbing shots of the stage action seen sideways on or at a jaunty angle to the stage, so that the piercingly blue sky of the act 1 set suddenly becomes black, and then changes back to bright blue.
I wanted to give this DVD many stars for the cast, which is excellent, and the production, which is meticulous and attractive, but I just cannot live with the tiresome tricksy camerawork. I'm going to get rid of my copy.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2012
Yes... why to wake up if I'd be better asleep dreaming of "Werther"?

Sometimes I can't find the appropriate words to express my enthusiasm, and the day I saw and listened this astonishing version was one of those...

Jonas Kaufmann and Sophie Koch, two of the greatest World Opera names at the moment, Sing and Act together in this remarkable Opera. And the Opera is remarkable not only because of Music and Text but also because of their stunning Singing and Performing!

To Summarise: Werther is a melancholic young Poet, who falls in love with Charlotte a very special young Woman daughter of a Magistrate, whose wife's death forced him to live alone with nine Children. Charlotte the eldest, runs the household with the help of her sister Sophie. But Charlotte is engaged to Albert ( Ludovic Tézier ), not because she loves him but to accomplish the promise she made to her mother that she would marry him. So when Charlotte meets Werther, a strong and immediate feeling has born between them, and the way they deal with it leads them to pain and suffering until Werther gives up on Life.
Somewhere, someone compared the Character of Werther to Lenski, the young Poet of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin".
I'd never thought about that but I agree with some similarity. Perhaps Lenski is less melancholic... though both share the same identical spirits and ( for different reasons ) die Young.

Kaufmann is one of the best (if not the best) Ténor of his generation and for now he owns the Medal. But... Ténor or Baritone? I'd say half-Ténor and half-Baritone! An almost impossible "wedding" that probably makes the difference not to forget his seductive and Velvety Voice!
I suppose the German Singer will keep this Medal at least for the next Decade! And this is a prediction...because beyond the excellent Singer and Performer there's an Intelligent and Humble Person witch reminds me the two perfect Symbols of Greatness, Intelligence and Humility of last Century's World of Opera: Domingo and Pavarotti.

I've met Mezzo-Soprano Sophie Koch years ago, when I had the chance to see and listen her in two interesting Male Roles: Sièbel of Gounot's "Faust" and Octavian of Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier". Though Charlotte's Role is her notable work until now!

Although Kaufmann is always impressive, Werther's Role also suits him like glove! And they are a magic couple in two of the most dramatic moments of this Opera: the unexpected appearence of Werther in Charlotte's house while she's grieving his absence, ending with the famous Aria "Pourquoi me Réveiller" brilliantly sung. The other is the scene of Werther's death in last Act brilliantly performed by both.

Awsome Performers with terrific voices and a body language out of definition! Even their tragic moments of silence are audible! When listening to them, the only thing that occured to me was: " They are not from this World!"

A remarkable French supporting Cast led by Sophie Koch, a wonderful HD Picture and Stage Direction by Benoit Jacquot at the Opera Bastille of Paris, and the emblematic presence of French Maestro Michel Plasson conducting L'Orchestre de L'Opera National de Paris, and bringing to Life this superb Romantic and Tragic Opera!

To the lovers of Music and the Excellence of Stage:
Don't miss This!
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2010
This is a magnificent visual and aural record of the critically acclaimed production created at Covent Garden in 2004 and performed here at the Paris Opera in the 2009/10 season. It propells itself immediately into the top echelon of opera dvd recordings.
The stage production boasts beautifully designed sets and ravishing lighting and the Director expertly captures the drama of the work with telling camera angles and close ups of the action. He is blessed with a team of singers with the highest of acting abilities who can bear the scrutiny of the camera at close proximity. No one more so than Jonas Kaufmann in the title role whom clearly the camera loves anyway. You will feel you are witnessing the perfect harmomy of character and performer. He is supported by an exemplary cast and an orchestra playing this sumptious score as if it is coursing through the players' veins. Michel Plasson could have been the Composer up there conducting.
The recording is made more "alive" for us, the armchair viewer, by capturing the performance not only from the auditorium but, at discreet moments, backstage from both flies and wings. One feels more privileged than those actually present at the theatre and one appreciates even more what it takes to bring a production together live in performance.
Here you will experience the magic of Opera in all its aspects.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2013
Fabulous singing, acting and sets but the whole DVD absolutely ruined by the camera direction showing off stage scenes during the performance. For me opera is extreme escapism transporting the audience. Any illusion was shattered. I cannot think why this was necessary the opera house audience did not see views off stage etc. I can only think the director of the DVD thought his audience would get bored with the opera without such gimmicks. Such little faith he has.
Kaufmann is outstanding as are all the other cast members, the sound is good, I would suggest only buying this if you want to hear it with the picture switched off.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2012
OK, if you have read some of my other reviews, you'll know that I don't give praise lightly (I have to confess that I was both amused and rather proud of the on-line abuse I received from one lady, who I can only assume is one of Eva Marton's stalkers, for my review on Pavarotti's Il Trovatore from the Met). However, when the only negative thing I can think to say was that I found Jonas' "wink" at the camera, as he waited for the curtain to go up on Act I, both unecessary and distracting; there can't be much wrong - and indeed, in my opinion, there isn't anything wrong.
This is a marvelous production, which is perfectly sung and acted - Jonas Kauffmann is quite simply the best Wether I have ever heard or seen and Sophie Koch is perfect as Charlotte. Watching her perfomance, for the first time in this opera, I found myself having little sympathy for her, thinking that she was deliberately leading Werther on.
Likewise, Jonas' portrayal (150% committed) made me warm to a character, whose portrayal by other perfomers that I've seen (Domingo, Alagna and Villazon) usually makes me wish someone had given Werther a good slap and forced him into therapy!!
Ludovic Tezier is also excellent, my goodness how he has matured as a singer and actor from the rather wooden character I saw in concert at the start of his career. I only hope the Met release their second HD relay of Lucia di Lammermoor, which I think has the edge on the first; and in which, Ludovic made my blood run cold.
So, all in all, this is near perfection (in fact, I think I possess only two recording which I consider to be 100% perfect - Capriccio with Renee Fleming in Paris, 2004 and Parsifal from Vienna with Domingo, 2005: there must be more, but these are my two stand-out ones and this recording comes very close to both of them).
My only regret on seeing this is that I wish I had booked to see it, rather than the production at Covent Garden with Villazon.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2011
As a huge fan of Jonas Kaufmann's I was prepared to put up with the "off stage" shots of the cast.....however, agree with the other reviewers who found this annoying. When I watch opera, I want to be caught up in what is happening for 2+ hours. I know they're acting but I don't want the "magic of the moment" ruined by the stupid aerial and off set shots. However, not the biggest problem with this production. What was the cameraman playing at when filming? When Jonas was singing, for the majority of the time we have him in the far left hand side of the screen - and not all of him but just a part - and then 3/4 of the screen is just the scenery. Frustrating and annoying - it looks as though a camera was set up and then just left to run on its own and if the cast didn't fit into the shot - well, that's just tough!! Shame because it ruins what could have been a 10* production.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Even with good performances I have always found Werther a rather anaemic romantic drama, but Jonas Kaufmann (Werther) and Sophie Koch (Charlotte) have changed that forever.

These extraordinary, intense performances seeped in angst are a triumph, the chemistry between the singers and their remarkable acting take the opera to an entirely new dimension, backed up with a fine supporting cast.

The stage sets are simple and broad brush, but work wonderfully well for the DVD allowing for plenty of expressive close ups driving home the drama. The rather strange quirk of commencing some scenes showing the singers waiting behind the scenery, and also showing exits from back stage can be criticised.

Excellent orchestral support under Michel Plasson, fine video and lovely sound.

This production is a revelation not to be missed!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I personally like this production very much as it offers sympathetic and fine singing throughout plus excellent surround sound. The camera work may be more of a problem for some viewers though. It did not bother me but could irritate others by bringing in shots taken from behind scenes and from the wings. This is clearly an attempt to involve the viewer as if they were part of the performance at times (not most of the time). This will produce a personal response specific to individual viewers - I simply found it unnecessary.

Kaufman sings and acts as well as always. Tezier sings well and fails to act as usual - a study in wood! The usual problem for me with this singer is that when he sings he focuses inwardly and hardly ever at the person his singing is supposed to be directed at. You have only to watch his eyes to see this all too clearly. In this case he has to portray the part of in emotionally stunted man who lacks all spontaneity and communication skills and therefore is a disaster as a loving man to his new wife. Brilliantly cast in this case! This is a personal view however and may not be shared by others!

The lack of Blu-ray in a new recording is far more serious omission and may be of more general concern. The lack of that option is a bad marketing decision in what is clearly going to be a growth market.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 5 November 2010
First and foremost, Jonas Kaufmann and Sophie Koch are at their considerable best in this production from the Bastille Opera in Paris. Singing of this quality is to be treasured and enjoyed. Michel Plasson draws fine playing from the orchestra and, had the director, Benoit Jacques curbed his enthusiasm for doing things differently for the camera, all would be well. Unfortunately he does not. You see the stage manager backstage, artists preparing to go on. Cameras constantly changing angle from the side of the stage to an aerial view,to close up to diagonal mixed shot of stage and orchestra. At the end of act 2, the curtain falls and then you see Sophie and Charlotte chatting as they go off stage! This nonsense not only makes for irritating viewing but negates the spell that Mr Kaufmann and Ms Koch are so intent on creating on the stage. One wonders how long it will be before we follow artists to the bathroom during the performance, or will the next thing be mini cameras strapped to their heads so that we can compare tonsils. The production is conventional and rather old fashioned but is dramatically cogent, and the supporting cast, notably Ludovic Tezier and Anne Catherine Gillet are very fine indeed. So, a dvd that will be essential viewing for fans of Mr Kaufmann and Ms Koch, but one that could have been so much better.
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