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Newly Digitized: Massenet’s Werther, for baritone

August 28th, 2013

Jules Massenet completed his opera based on Goethe’s novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthersin 1887; its first performance – sung in German – occurred at Vienna’s Hofoper on February 16, 1892, after Léon Carvalho, director of the Opéra-Comique, rejected the work on grounds that its somber subject matter was unsuitable for his audiences.

Jules Massenet, "Pourquoi me reveiller," Werther, pg. 176-177. Merritt Room Mus 742.14.640.5

Jules Massenet, “Pourquoi me réveiller,” Werther, pg. 176-177. Merritt Room Mus 742.14.640.5 (click to enlarge)

  • [Werther. Vocal score]. Werther: drame lyrique en quatre actes et cinq tableaux d’après Goethe; poème de M.M. Edouard Blau, Paul Milliet et Georges Hartmann; musique de J. Massenet; partition piano et chant. Paris : Heugel & Cie, [1893], c1892. Merritt Room Mus 742.14.640.5
Portrait de M. Vanni-Marcoux de l'Opéra : [photographie de presse] / Agence Mondial
Portrait de M. Vanni-Marcoux de l’Opéra : [photographie de presse] / Agence Mondial
Source: gallica.bnf.fr

The present score belonged to baritone Vanni-Marcoux (Jean Émile Diogène Marcoux, 1877-1962). He was a dominant figure in Parisian musical life following the First World War, celebrated for his performances as Massenet’s Don Quichotte. Vanni-Marcoux’s score presents the role of Werther re-written for baritone, a project that Massenet undertook in 1902 for the Italian baritone Mattia Battistini (1856-1928), who sang the role on various European stages from 1901 to 1911 (most often in Italian, but occasionally in French). Shown here is the scene from Act 3 between Charlotte and Werther leading up to the celebrated aria “Pourquoi me réveiller.”

-Robert Dennis

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