Jules Massenet's Werther remains the most successful adaptation for the opera stage of Die Leiden des jungen Werthers by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Opera Ballet Vlaanderen presents this crown jewel of the French opera in a concert version.
Goethe's legendary epistolary novel is the iconic work about an unfulfilled, romantic love. Werther is an idealist and dreamer who clashes with the limits of a complacent bourgeois society. In Charlotte he finds a soul mate and a woman with whom he wants to share everything. 'My soul has recognized your soul', Werther is sure. Charlotte also feels love for Werther, but she has promised her hand to the caring and pragmatic Albert. Duty and decency get in the way of her feelings. Against the background of a love triangle, a love tragedy unfolds in which every attempt at self-realization is thwarted and individual happiness is sacrificed to a social status quo.
Goethe's cult novel was inspired by his own unhappy youthful love and his contemporary Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem, who fell in love with a married woman. In his drame lyrique, Massenet focuses on the intimate drama of Werther and Charlotte. The divertissement and the decorative aesthetic of the earlier French opera give way to an intense emotional story with heartbreaking moments, such as Charlotte's aria Va! Laisse couler mes larmes. Massenet's opera is just as much 'the sorrows of young Charlotte'.