Michael Fabiano. Photo: Prudence Upton

Posted by & filed under Arts & Entertainment, Theatre & Performance.

Why is it that in opera, as the plot becomes more melancholic, the singing gets better, as was evident in Opera Australia’s Werther?

Director Elijah Moshinsky gave the first three acts of this production a contemporary, light atmosphere – quite different to Goethe’s novel called The Sorrows Of Young Werther, on which French composer Massenet based his opera.  

Werther captures the zeitgeist of the 1800s – a pastoral, idyllic opening in Act One, from which the love story plummets to Werther’s lovelorn suicide in Act Four. 

That was a new twist on the standard opera plot – normally it was the heroine who was despatched! 

Under the baton of conductor Carlo Montanaro, the orchestra established the perfect atmosphere for the various scenes from moonlit night to death-bed finale. 

A large cohort of children represented the motherless family of bailiff Le Bailli (sung by Richard Anderson), of whom the heroine Charlotte (Elena Maximova) is the eldest daughter and much-loved surrogate mother.  

Her fiancé, then husband, Albert (Luke Gabbedy), added pomposity as a successful businessman, while lively sister Sophie (Stacey Alleaume) shone in her Act Three aria.  

But the evening belonged to the rejected poet-lover Werther, played by tenor Michael Fabiano. 

This is a voice of note – Italianate rather than French in timbre – which shone particularly in Acts Three and Four. 

The voices of Werther and Charlotte blended voluptuously to produce some of the best singing of the evening. 

In summary, the plot-line may be sorrowful, but the production and singing are definitely not! 

Well worth a visit!

Until Mar 11. Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney. $39-$361+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneyoperahouse.com

Reviewed by Irina Dunn