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French Opera at the Fin de Siecle$
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Steven Huebner

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195189544

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195189544.001.0001

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(p.113) 6 Werther
French Opera at the Fin de Siecle

Steven Huebner

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on Massenet's Werther. It argues that Werther exhibits a remarkable blend of stageworthiness and fidelity to the epistolary antecedent, including borrowings of many of Goethe's expressions. In its final form, the work follows the events of its model more closely than any of Massenet's previous operas, including Manon. A substantial distortion of Goethe at the end has cast a long enough shadow to obscure this fact for many critics since the première. Whereas in the novel Werther dies alone, in the opera Charlotte rushes into his room for a final heart-wrenching duet after the suicidal gunshot: David Garrick's version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, as well as Gounod's operatic adaptation, are revisited.

Keywords:   Massenet, French opera, Goethe, Manon

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