As the first musical stage work based on a literary source by Goethe, Massenet’s “Werther” successfully bridged the gap between large-scale opera with full-voiced singers and an ambitious transposition of the literary original – even though this gap seemed unbridgeable, ranging from Goethe’s monologue-based epistolary novel of 1774 to the great duets shared between the disconsolate title hero and his longed-for Charlotte. Through a subtle instrumentation on the one hand and broadly sweeping dramatic gestures on the other, Massenet was able to retain the basic idea of an unrequited, passionate love on the opera stage as well. Even the Viennese press couldn’t help but acknowledge this at the 1892 world premiere. Since then, “Werther” has never lost its pre-eminent position on the world’s operatic stages.
Contrary to the previous editions, the piano-vocal score presented here is the first to be based on the composer’s autograph and thus features the original version of the work as originally intended by Massenet. Since the singer of the world premiere apparently had vocal problems, Massenet subsequently made some reductions in the closing duo, which have now been eliminated.