Roberto Alagna | Werther
Vesselina Kasarova | Charlotte
Tae-Joong Yang | Albert
Daniela Fally | Sophie
Andreas Hörl | Le Bailli
Thomas Ebenstein | Schmidt
Hans Peter Kammerer | Johann
Bertrand de Billy | Dirigent
Andrei Serban | Regie
Alagna is singing Werther for the first time in Vienna, having made his debut in the role of the unhappy poet back in 1997. It´s good to have a French speaking Werther for once, who is not muddling and stumbling his way through the role. This Werther allows us a little glimpse of what French style singing was about. – At least where diction is concerned. Where have all the French tenors (and French singers on the whole!) actually gone, one wonders?? Taking into account just the years between 1910 and 1930 there were Ansseau, Muratore, Clément, Cazette, Vezzani, Villabella, Micheletti, Luccioni, d´Arkor, Thill – to name just a few candidates for Werther…. They have thinned out considerably during the 1950s and 1960s and nowadays there´s really only Alagna left.
I just wish I could have heard him in this role some ten years earlier. And how I wish he would have stuck to roles which really suited him. I suppose his temperament had the say on the choice of roles more than his vocal resources. Now, after Radames, Chénier, Calaf (Otello to come next year) the voice sounds worn and tired, it costs him considerable effort to keep up the vocal tension. (Yet, he is much better here – and probably will be in „Carmen“, too, which is due in May – than as Riccardo in „Un Ballo in Maschera“). He is at his usual best, in the passionate outbursts, less so where vocal finesse is required. The „invocation à la nature“ – so very poetic and descriptive (listen to Devries – this is true poetry) – lacks the effortlessness and bewitching beauty, apart from a little „stecca“ on „paraDIS“. „O spectacle idéal“ is better, but the „clair de lune“ is calling for more magic and charm. The top sounds good at times, but then some phrases later quite strained. It´s really a 50:50 chance. „Ah! Qu’il est loin ce jour“ and „Lorsque l’enfant revient d’un voyage“ has some incisive phrasing, but towards the end („Il reviendrait vers toi“) he has to force considerably. „Pourquoi me réveiller“ was no particular highlight, rather hurried and sturdy. Yet, he carries the evening. He does try to find a vocal line and nuances – not always does he succeed. At times he is so busy to get over the heavy orchestration, that there is no room for delicate phrasing. The finale was touching: „Écoute bien, là-bas“ has beautiful moments and was well shaped. Where rests the poet? This was a committed and passionate performance by a charismatic singer, who is able to transmit something and get the role across. Yet – its character remained rather one-dimensional.
I really wanted to hear Garanca as Charlotte – Kasarova stepped in on VERY short notice and was flown in only some hours earlier. She was generally regarded as a more than decent replacement, yet I found her very dissappointing. She opts for a broad and dark sound. The voice is „thick“, guttural and heavy with little flexibility and a rather short top. No real vocal line and little drive. What was really annoying was that you could hardly understand a word she sang. Her bad diction was most annoying: all vocals sounded the same: a mixture of ööö and aaa, consonants were inexistant. The „letter scene“ was the worst: here you really have to sculpture the words and have a clear structure (listen to Cernay!). The „Air des larmes“ went by without much significance. The fact that her pronounciation is so incomprehensible is really making the role sound dull and monotonous. Big delusion.
Andreas Hörl as the Bailli was loud and sang annoyingly flat. Why can´t we get some decent singers for the small roles!? Thomas Ebenstein´s Schmidt was better. Albert sung by Tae-Joong Yang was a low point: a tight voice with a considerable tremolo produced with much effort and pressure, but little sound coming out of it. Daniela Fally´s Sophie is charming, but not remarkable. There´s more to that role than jumping around and a few top notes.
De Billy is doing a little too much: overindulging in the prelude and in many places too heavy handed with little raffinement.
I really like „Werther“. How I wish we could hear it sung like some of the examples below! Élégance, clarté, diction – are the three corner pillars of French singing. Alagna tried, the others had no idea about that.