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This Day in History - February 16

Massenet's opera 'Werther' premiered.
Video | February 16, 2017 | By Jonathan Shipley


On this day, in 1892, Jules Massenet's opera, Werther, premiered in Vienna. 

A four-act French opera, it is loosely based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's German epistolary novel The Sorrows of a Young Werther, which was based on Goethe's own early life. There were operas based on the book prior to Massenet's (one in 1802, another in 1792), but it's Massenet's that remains. The story is of Werther, a young man, deeply in love with Charlotte. Charlotte, however, is duty-bound to marry Albert. A tragedy ensues.

The Seattle Opera last performed it during their 1996/97. You can read the Encore Arts Program of that performance, here. The San Francisco Opera has performed it several times, as well. The last time was during their 2010/11 season. An archive of Werther performaces at the San Francisco Opera can be found, here. The last time the show was shown locally, was at the Vashon Opera in 2014. (Full disclosure: the writer's daughter was in the Vashon production).

Massenet was a French composer of the Romantic era. Most known for his operas, he wrote 30 of them, he's most known for Werther and Manon, though he also composed ballets, orchestral works and more. 

On the power of Werther:

From the opera:

The opera in full: