Massenet
San Francisco Opera· San Francisco · September 2010 



This is Francisco's second production of this opera. Intent on making palpable every nuance in the extraordinary music, the concept (which is quite traditional in appearance) aims to push the situations to the limit, bringing out the deeper repressed emotions. The cast and conductor gave their all to an unusual approach to some of the scenes and in the end there was a wide disparity of reactions ranging from admirative ethusiasm to dismissive rejection.



Production Team
Sets: Louis Desiré
Costumes: Louis Desiré
Lighting: Duane Schuler
Conductor: Emmanuel Villaume

Casts included
Alice Coote, Ramón Vargas, David Lomeli, Maya Lahyani, Heidi Stober, Brian Mulligan, Susannah Biller, Austin Kness, Bojan Knezevic, Robert MacNeil, Christian Van Horn, Kyle Reidy, Anna Sophia Boyd, Josh Reinier, Blanca Peto, James Barton, Kyle Miller.


"In the new production, inventively directed by Francisco Negrin and designed by Louis Désiré and Duane Schuler,....the multilevel set gives Werther a claustrophobic little cubby hole at the bottom of the stage to serve as his artist's garret. From there, he watches - or imagines - the ordinary, happy life going on above him in the house of the Bailiff, Charlotte and Sophie's widowed father, then retreats to nurture obsessive memories that play out on a small video screen. It's a smart embodiment of the misleading power of Werther's own imagination.
Charlotte's imagination, conversely, comes to the fore in the third and fourth acts, in Negrin's most audacious and vivid directorial stroke. What Massenet wrote as a climactic encounter between Werther and Charlotte, at a time when any hope for their mutual happiness has long since passed, Negrin stages as Charlotte's dream.
With Schuler's lighting crisply delineating between the reality and dreamland, Charlotte reaches out - hauntingly, vainly - to a love she believes might have saved her. Werther's suicide, at once real and hallucinatory, becomes all the more wrenching."

Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle
17 September 2010





 

"Negrin builds the action smartly, and "Werther" suddenly makes clear sense. We listen with renewed interest to one line after the next.."

Richard Scheinin
Mercury News
16 September 2010

 

 

 

"In his compelling debut assignment for the company, Francisco Negrin seeks a timeless universality and psychological complexity in the relationship between the tortured Werther and the conventionally married Charlotte that might escape more casual observers."

Allan Ulrich
The Financial Times
16 September 2010

 

 

 

"This new staging by Francisco Negrin and Louis Desiré blatently and thankfully resists any folklorism. It cleverly avoids the sweetish "germanism" of previous San Francisco Opera productions . By being resolutely modernist it gives back all his value to Massenet!"

Hervé Le Mansec
Opéra Magazine (France)
December 2010

 

 

 

 

"The second “new to the world” production of 2010 is Mexican Stage Director Francisco Negrin’s complex and insightful production of Massenet’s “Werther....

In one of the Negrin’s many masterstrokes in this production, Brian Mulligan’s Albert inspects Werther’s rooms and brings written evidence to Charlotte, who sings her “Letter Song” with Albert present, himself going through the letters one by one. When Coote finished the Letter Song, the first ovation of the night was heard – I suspect not just appreciation for Coote’s affecting singing, but also for Mulligan’s extraordinary evocation of Albert’s increasing discomfort with the situation....

At the end of the performance, there were some boos when the director and set designer took their first night bows, although it was clear that the audience also included strong support for the production team. One lady near me said, “just wait until the critics have their way with this”....

I have no trouble in demolishing the pretensions of some of the concept directors who have given regietheatre its “Eurotrash” nickname, and who have tried the patience of audiences who feel that tickets are too expensive to waste on silly “over the top” staging of familiar works. However, the best of the modern concept directors bring insightful new ways of thinking about esteemed works in the operatic repertoire.
....Team Negrin shows that the work that Team Massenet constructed from Goethe’s Die Leiden is conducive to the mix of the real and surreal in which some of the modern concept directors have become so adept. The result is transformative.

How does this reviewer “have his way” with Negrin’s production? Noting that this is a co-production with the Lyric Opera in Chicago, to be shown there in 2012, I am awaiting the announcement of the performance dates so that I can make my Chicago hotel reservations. For those able to attend any of the five remaining performances in San Francisco, I recommend the production highly.

 

William Burnett
Opera Warhorses
12 December 2010