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Werther, Theatre Royal, Glasgow A tale of doomed love

The orchestra of Scottish Opera sounded tremendous as Scotland's classical music crowd, plus a few newbies, turned out for the opening night of Scottish Opera's new production of Massenet's Werther.

Sometimes rich thunderclaps of doom from the orchestra were too tremendous, overwhelming the singers at their grand climaxes. That Francesco Corti should get this wrong in acoustics so familiar is puzzling.

On stage, Acts 1 and 2 were underwhelming, in the grey and unappealing 19th-century setting and Massenet's score. Pia Furtado's production deserves credit for brave and effective use of symbolic figurative moments, cherubic children rotating around the angelic Charlotte, for example, as Werther contemplates his golden heroine.

The bleak and angst-ridden story of doomed love didn't engage until the second half, when Viktoria Vizin, making her debut for Scottish Opera as Charlotte, took the evening to a different level. Jonathan Boyd, as Werther, also gave a good second half when released from standing to the side. Sadly, the enunciation of his French was murky.

Earlier, the delightfully pretty shimmering tones of Anna Devin, playing Sophie, warmed the cold scenes. In Act 3, Vizin's rich palette was luminous, less accessible to the listener at first, but then deeply rewarding. Abandoning at last Charlotte's dull virtuous composure, Vizin staggered under her character's emotional confusion, Werther's letters scattered around her like the fragments of a fractured mind. Here at last something triumphantly compelling.


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