Jules Massenet

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Musical drama in four acts (five scenes)
Libretto: Édouard Blau, Paul Millet, and Georges Hartmann after Johann Wolfgang Goethe
World premiere: 16 February 1892, Paris
Premiere of this production: 14 January 1995, Amsterdam
In the original French with Polish and English surtitles

‘Without the idea of suicide I would have surely killed myself,’ goes the famous quote from Emil Cioran, an expert in mental pain who invested all his creative energies into bemoaning the human condition. (He left behind thousands of published pages filled with moans and complaints whose main purpose – as he also famously admitted – was to delay his suicide.) Opera classics abound in fatalities, with scores of rejected or betrayed lovers taking their own life in despair, yet the victims are predominantly women. Not in Massenet’s opera. Based on the famed epistolary novel by the young Goethe, this story’s suicidal protagonist is a young man, the most renowned romantic lover of them all, who shoots himself unable to cope with Weltschmerz and obsessive love for the wrong person. The opera is, in fact, his poignant suicide note, while the suicide itself is sometimes delayed by the dazzled audience. Singing the title role in the premiere of Willy Decker’s production of Werther, Piotr Beczała was forced to sing an encore of Ossian’s Song (‘Pourquoi me reveiller’) before he could shoot himself. Indeed, this is one of the most celebrated tenor arias of all time and reason enough to suffer a little together with Werther.



    • Patrick Fournillier Conductor

    • Willy Decker Staging Conception

    • Stefan Heinrichs Revival Director

    • Wolfgang Gussmann Set and Costume Designer

    • Mel Page Costume Designer


  • Patron of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

  • Partners of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

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  • Logo Sisley
  • Logo Albert Riele
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