Joyce DiDonato and Vittorio Grigolo lead the cast with Antonio Pappano in the pit in Benoît Jacquot’s sumptuous production of Massenet’s operatic tragedy of duty and desire.
The excellent libretto, prepared by Edouard Blau and Paul Milliet, distills Goethe’s Romantic masterpiece – their shortened version intensifies Goethe’s depiction of two passionate people each intent on hurting the other. Its spareness affords Massenet the opportunity to make his music not only delve into the psyches of the central couple but also describe the damage they cause to Sophie and Albert. The score displays Massenet’s gift for melody, with the ‘Clair de lune’, ‘Lied d’Ossian’ and Charlotte’s ‘Prière’ now some of his most loved music. Director Benoît Jacquot’s 2004 production for The Royal Opera, with elegant set designs by Charles Edwards, makes manifest the opera’s theme of keeping up appearances while torrid passions rage beneath.