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Milan, Massenet's Werther returns to the stage at La Scala after over 40 years; protagonist Bernheim, Alain Altinoglu on the Piermarini podium for the first time
The direction of the new staging is entrusted to Christof Loy, making his debut at La Scala
Organized by: Teatro alla Scala Foundation

Teatro alla Scala Foundation Presents

“ Season 2023/24 | Opera "
After a 44-year absence, al La Scala Theater in Milan back on stage Werther, masterpiece that Jules Massenet taken from the young man's famous epistolary novel Goethe.

The new staging created by La Scala in co-production with the Théâtre des Champs -Élysées in Paris is highly anticipated: on stage from 10 June to 2 July 2024 for six performances, the production marks the debut in Milan of two relevant personalities of international musical theatre. He climbs onto the Piermarini podium for the first time Alain Altinoglu, musical director of the Monnaie in Brussels and the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra and regular guest of prestigious orchestras and international institutions, while the German directs Christof Loy, active in major theaters and festivals, which uses the scenes of Johannes Leiacker, of the costumes of Robby Duiveman and some lights Roland Edrich.

The vocal cast is prestigious, featuring the refined and highly acclaimed French tenor Benjamin Bernheim in the role of the restless protagonist, supported by the mezzo-soprano Charlotte Victoria Karkacheva, winner of Operalia 2021 and soon Carmen at the San Carlo in Naples; the baritone Jean Sébastien Bou, also an appreciated interpreter of French mélodies, will be Albert and Frances Pia Vitale, who graduated in 2022 from the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala, will take on the role of Sophie.

The scenic space imagined by the director is characterized by elegant simplicity Christof Loy: a white wall isolates the characters on the proscenium while through a door we can see the rituals and everyday life of a social life from which they are excluded. The attention is focused on the acting of the protagonists and on the psychological and emotional tensions that are created between them. “If in Sorrows of young Werther there is the triangle between Werther, Charlotte and Albert – he explains Loy – in other Goethean novels, Elective affinities, there are two pairs, so the possibilities explored in previous work are expanded. Here, in Massenet's Werther the introduction of the character of Sophie leads to a quartet that is all in all similar, with many more possible combinations, some of which have something chemical, which cannot be destroyed in any way, as in the case of Werther and Charlotte."

“I believe that the level of complexity of a work like Werther – comments the director Alain Altinoglu – also lies in the meeting between two worlds: the German world, of course, but seen by the French. A bit like what happens with Bizet's Carmen, where there is the Spanish world but filtered by the French gaze. In particular, Massenet is a composer who was very careful to adapt his musical vocabulary to the setting of the librettos and their sources. For example, when he wrote Thérèse, an opera about the French Revolution, he introduced a harpsichord in the orchestra; thus in Werther he allowed the allusion to the German environment to shine through through writing rich in chromaticism, or through what was an unmistakable signal for the time, given that it immediately made one think of Wagner. Another level through which to look at the work is the strong resonance between Werther's story and Massenet's personal life in that period, the crisis of his relationship with his wife, his extramarital affairs and perhaps, more generally, his recognize oneself in a certain painful energy, in certain melancholic traits".

The work

At the height of fame after the successes of Herodiade and Manon,  Jules Massenet he responds first of all to a personal poetic need when he decides, together with the publisher Hartmann, to ask Paul Milliet and Édouard Blau to draw a booklet from Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther. And in fact, after long years of gestation (the idea dates back to 1880) the work struggled to find representation in France and debuted in Vienna in 1892 in German translation. The premiere of the French original followed a few months later in Geneva and finally, in January 1893, Werther arrived at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, where the process of consecration began which would make it the author's most acclaimed and popular work. . Raffaele Mellace notes in the presentation written for the Rivista Scaligera: “A cruel drama, Werther is a chamber drama, which takes place in the ordinary and very unheroic spaces of a provincial bourgeois life, capable of exacerbating the burning contradiction between external reality and inner world. It is a drama that does nothing to hide its literary origins (so much so that the places of highest lyricism have to do with the act of reading), that is, the derivation from one of the great best sellers of all time , a novel which upon its release, exactly 250 years ago, had shocked the existence of many and which a century later, in the Paris of the Third Republic, was considered ripe for a stage transcription. The genre of dramé lyrique used to exploit, with good success, the classics, Shakespeare above all; a Goethean subject like Faust had suited itself very well, so there was no reason to stay away from The Sorrows of Young Werther, despite the problematic nature of the genre, an epistolary novel, not exactly one of the most suitable for taking to the stage”.


(Top photo, credit Brescia & Amisano; Alain Altinoglu, credit ©Marco Borggreve)
Milan, Massenet's Werther returns to the stage at La Scala after over 40 years; protagonist Bernheim, Alain Altinoglu on the Piermarini podium for the first time

Other information of interest

The June 10 the work will be broadcast in direct on Rai Radio3, the representation of June 27 will be broadcast in live stream on the platform LaScala TV.

One hour before the start of each performance, Raffaele Mellace will hold an introductory conference on the opera at the Ridotto dei Palchi.


Director Alain Altinoglu
Direction and choreography Christof Loy

Scenes Johannes Leiacker
Costumes Robby Duiveman
Lights Roland Edrich
Characters and performers
Werther Benjamin Bernheim
Albert Jean Sébastien Bou
Le Bailli Armando Noguera
Schmidt Rodolphe Briand
Johann Enric Martínez-Castignani
Bruhlmann Pierluigi D'Aloia*
Charlotte Victoria Karkacheva
Sophie Frances Pia Vitale
Katchen Elisa Verzier

*Pupil of the Specialization Academy for Opera Singers of the Teatro alla Scala

Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala
Children's Choir of the Accademia Teatro alla Scala

New Teatro alla Scala production
in Co-production with Théâtre des Champs-Élysées


Jules Massenet

Opera in four acts
Libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann


10 June 2024 at 8pm 'before' 
performances 15, 19, 24, 27 June and 2 July at 8pm

Who organizes

Teatro alla ScalaThe New Regio Ducal… more

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