Friday, March 14, 2014

Is There No Loyalty Left in the World?

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Beauty’s ‘Cocktailing’Hour, the author, Elizabeth Holmes, talks about high-end beauty junkies who spend a great deal of their time either on the internet learning about the latest make-up products and techniques or trying them out.  There was a time when a gal went to her favorite make-up counter at the local department store for all her beauty products.  My Grandmother wore only Max Factor, and my Mother swore by Revlon.  Today’s young beauty junkies not only mix and match products, but they mix and match product lines.  A frustrated artiste at heart, I’ve been mixing my blushers, lipsticks and eye shadows to get exactly the right shades for as long as I can remember.  But, I do tend to be loyal to my favorite cosmetic line, Laura Mercier (Read about My Three Make-up Must Haves).  Is Brand loyalty as old-fashioned as pan-cake make-up?  Is loyalty itself an old-fashioned concept?  Is there no loyalty left in the world? 


Ah, mais oui, there is.  In the world of opera, people are still loyal unto death…..a bit extreme, I admit, but when accompanied by gorgeous music, it can be ooooh so beautiful. 


Werther – Metropolitan Opera Production – photo by Brigitte Lacombe
In the 18th century world of the young poet Werther, you fall in love instantly and remain hopelessly, passionately in love….. until death.  The best way to describe the opera Werther by Jules Massenet (1842-1912) is to say that it is sooooo quintessentially French.  The gorgeous music, one moment as light and delicate as a soufflé, the next all swirling, dark passion sweeps you away in its arms. 

The new production at the Metropolitan Opera is absolute perfection in every way from the period sets and costumes, updated to the 19th century, to the magnificent cast.   It’s impossible not to get caught up in the magic spell they weave from first to last note. 

German tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Werther simply IS the embodiment of the brooding, love-sick poet,,,


And French mezzo-soprano Sophie Koch as Charlotte makes it easy to see why he has fallen in love with this delicate beauty. 



Werther and Charlotte – Metropolitan Opera – photo by Ken Howard

The opera opens on a lovely summer evening in the garden of a country home in 19th Century Germany, where Werther meets Charlotte for the first time.  He has come with a group of friends who are to escort her to a party.  Naturally, he falls hopelessly, madly and utterly in love at first sight and they dance the night away in each other’s arms. 



Werther and Charlotte - Metropolitan Opera
But, there’s a rather large hitch in the proceedings.  Charlotte has promised her dying Mother to marry the solid and rather stolid Albert, Werther’s friend, who is conveniently out of town. 
So, despite Werther’s desperate pleas and protestations of love, she tells him they can never be together for she must remain loyal to her promise to her Mother and faithful to her fiancé, Albert.  Pauvre Werther is devastated. 



Werther and Charlotte - Metropolitan Opera
Later that fall at a village celebration, Werther confronts Charlotte, now married to Albert, and again confesses his love, which she rejects.  Werther has tried to remain friends with the couple, but finds it too painful, so Charlotte asks him to leave the village and not return until Christmas.  Werther reluctantly agrees.  Alone, he gives vent to his feelings and thoughts of suicide in some of the most beautiful music ever written for a seriously depressed tenor. 
 

Werther and Charlotte - Metropolitan Opera – photo by Ken Howard
Christmas Eve finds Sophie alone in her husband’s home reading and rereading the passionate letters Werther has been sending her since his departure. 
When, suddenly, Werther appears.  What follows is a snippet of one of the greatest show-stopper arias ever written for a love-sick tenor. 




Werther and Charlotte - Metropolitan Opera
Werther can contain his emotions no longer and he takes the struggling and frightened Charlotte into his arms and kisses her (“Oh WOW!” to quote the lady sitting next to me.).  Terrified by his unbridled passion, Charlotte breaks free and locks herself in her boudoir.  Utterly dejected, Werther runs out of the house. 
 
Albert returns home to a frazzled wife and a note from his friend, Werther, asking to borrow Albert’s pistols.  Werther says he will be taking a long journey and needs them.  It doesn’t take Albert long to figure out what has happened in his absence, and he coolly orders his servant to deliver the pistols.  I have always thought that this was a terrific coup de théâtre, using Albert’s pistols – so poetic, so French. 
 
As soon as Albert leaves, Charlotte rushes off to try and stop Werther, but……………


Werther and Charlotte - Metropolitan Opera
Of course, she is too late.  The unhappy poet has already shot himself and dies happily in Charlotte’s arms as she finally confesses her love for him.  The joyous sound of children singing Christmas carols can be heard outside.  The End. 

As I left the theater, still wiping the tears from my eyes, I looked at my husband and asked, “Would you have killed yourself if I had rejected you?” 

Sensing the verbal trap I had laid for him (We do that all the time to our men, don’t we?), my man-of-action, ex-Army sharp shooter husband looked me straight in the eye and said, “I would kill for you.” 
 
Oh WOW, to quote the lady sitting next to me. 
 

M-T’s Note:  Tomorrow, Saturday, the 15th, Werther will be simulcast in HD from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York at 12:55 pm Eastern Time in theaters and cinemas around the world.  An encore screening in local theaters will take place on Wednesday, March 19th, at 6:30 pm ET.  Click here for details and to find a theater near you.  Whether you’ve already seen Werther or never seen it before, you don’t want to miss this fabulous performance of one of French opera’s most beautiful gems!!

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for recounting the plot and posting such great photos. I've never seen this opera. Does Texaco still sponser a live broadcast of the Met on the Radio? I used to listen to that all the time.

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  2. Yes, Marilyn, there will be a live radio broadcast tomorrow. Texaco no longer sponsors those broadcasts. Remember "Texaco presents the Metropolitan Opera....."? I still remember the mellifluous voice of Milton Cross as the announcer. The sponsor is now Toll Brothers, and they have been sponsoring the Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts for quite some time now. I hope you will be listening. Even though I have seen it in the theater, I will definitely be listening at home.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

    Cheers, M-T

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  3. I'm a minimalist when it comes to makeup, but I am a brand loyalist – sensitive skin has fewer choices. When it comes to opera I am once again a loyalist to specific operas and operettas. Interesting post. Bon week-end

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    1. I share your minimalist philosophy when it comes to makeup. I also share your sensitive skin, so I am quite careful about what I use on my face.

      Always a pleasure when your insightful comments pop up on my posts.

      Cheers, M-T

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  4. Your husband was very clever, in his response. And yes!!! I love to set him in verbal traps :)). I'm not a total brand loyalist but enjoy some companies for one type of product and others for their strengths. I too love Laura Mercier, but am smitten with Chanel lipstick and Dior mascara..these days. Can't promise about tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend friend. xoJennifer

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    1. He is indeed very clever. I didn't just marry him for his good looks, but for his quick mind and quick wit. We keep each other on our toes.

      I've been thinking about giving Dior mascara a try.

      Bon weekend ma chère amie,

      xoxo, M-T

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  5. Have never seen this opera but it sounds wonderful.

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    1. Put it on your opera list, but make sure you get this cast. You won't be disappointed.

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  6. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Here I am back after 24 hours not being able to open any blog... I was inside yours but the video didn't play. Next I could not enter any blog nor comment. A dear friend came over tonight to fix it and I'm so happy it is working again!
    You for sure had a lovely time with Werther and Charlotte... A dramatic ending but that ads to the charm in a way.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. You have had a rough time with Blogger. I, too, was having trouble changing my Template (trying out something new) and making adjustments, etc. I think Blogger was having a bit of a hissy fit.

      En tout cas, I'm delighted you were persistent and finally able to enjoy my post and leave one of your delightful comments.

      Although the calendar says Spring this week, we are expecting more snow. Can you believe it? I'll just have to curl up with a good book and Werther and Charlotte.

      Warm hugs, M-T

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  7. A copliment for your header; love those hats! So charmant...
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Thanks, Mariette. I thought the Blog needed a new look and new header picture for Spring. That's one of my favorite pictures of my Goddaughter and me. It's not great photography (taken by phone), but I love it. That little summer cloche hat is my favorite traveling companion, after my husband.

      Hugs, M-T

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